Mean Girls 101

The essential guide to cult classic catch phrases

This week, Caught in the Act welcomes guest blogger Alex Stewart, media relations manager for The Straz and a big fan of the Mean Girls movie. Our resident subject matter expert on the most memorable lines from the film, Alex agreed to take us through this Mean Girls primer to get us ready for the upcoming musical adaptation.

By Alex Stewart

Get ready to leave the real world and enter Girl World when Mean Girls comes to the Morsani stage February 18-23. The Broadway musical is based on the 2004 film, both written by Tina Fey. The film, now almost 16 years old, has become a modern cult classic and one of the most quotable movies of our time. In honor of the upcoming burn fest, we wanted to share some of the most fetch phrases from the film – because when it comes to quoting Mean Girls, the limit does not exist.

 “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” – Karen Smith

Arguably one of the most recognized and quoted lines from the movie, Karen excitedly tells Cady Heron what to wear in order to sit with the Plastics (the most popular girls in school) the next day at lunch. This line has inspired an insane amount of merch, as well as countless women across the internet documenting a week they spent living by the Plastics’ rules, which are as follows:

  1. You can’t wear tank tops two days in a row.
  2. You can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week.
  3. You can only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays.

Don’t forget that hoop earrings are Regina’s thing, and you wouldn’t buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you, right? And in the Plastics’ world, if you don’t follow the rules …

“YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!” – Gretchen Wieners 

The ultimate representation of girl-on-girl crime and bullying, Gretchen shouts this line at Regina when she walks up to the table wearing sweatpants on a Friday, which is against the rules of the Plastics. We’d bet that most people have jokingly shouted this line at someone, many without even knowing it’s from Mean Girls.

“On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was. It’s October 3rd.”

Thanks to this iconic line, October 3rd has unofficially become Mean Girls Day. Cady Heron is so into Aaron Samuels that she notes the exact day that he asked her what day it was, obviously making it one of the most important days of the year.

“She doesn’t even go here!” – Damian Leigh

One of the most well-known references in the film, Damian shouts this at an all-girls assembly wearing a hoodie and sunglasses in reference to a girl who doesn’t go to their school but won’t stop talking. The best part about this line? There are so many ways to integrate it into daily life:

Did someone give an opinion no one asked for? SHE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE!

Is there a rando interrupting your conversation? SHE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE!

Now, you try.

“That is so fetch!” – Gretchen Wieners

Even though Regina told Gretchen to “stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen!”, fetch did happen, despite the odds. Now it’s part of our vernacular, thanks to the film.

“Four for you, Glen Coco. You go Glen Coco! …And none for Gretchen Wieners.” – Damian Leigh

In the film, Damian, dressed as Santa, is handing out candy cane grams to students in class. Glen Coco receives four candy cane grams from someone, while Cady receives one from Regina and Gretchen receives none. This is part of the plan to take down the Plastics – and while Glen Coco has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, the delivery of this line has made him live in infamy.

Fun fact: Glen Coco was played by David Reale, who was uncredited in the film. Reale was not cast; he walked onto to the set to watch the filming and get free lunch. You go, David Reale!

“Get in, loser. We’re going shopping.” – Regina George

This iconic phrase has inspired endless memes. From dogs and llamas in cars (our favorites) to Dr. Who and the TARDIS to so many more. The possibilities for using this phrase are endless.

“Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.” – Regina George

One of the most relatable quotes from the film for pretty much anyone, Regina declares this after she says she’s only eating foods with less than 30% calories from fat. We’ll take cheese fries over math any day.   

“I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” – Mrs. George, Regina’s mom

Regina’s mom says this line to Cady after the Plastics are invited to Regina’s house. A suburban housewife, Mrs. George tries to maintain her youth by wearing hip clothes, partaking in plastic surgery and offering to allow the girls to drink alcohol—if they do so in the house.

One of the most quoted phrases by moms of humans and pets alike, this line has cemented itself in modern culture. There are currently over 20,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag #ImNotaRegularMomImaCoolMom.

“It’s like I have ESPN or something.” – Karen Smith

This phrase is solely responsible for making ESPN grool. Karen, described as “one of the dumbest girls you’ll ever meet,” explains to Cady that she has a fifth sense. Mixing up the psychic ability ESP with the sports channel ESPN, this is one of the most obvious and ridiculous jokes, making it one of the most quotable phrases in the film.

“That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.” – Damian Leigh

Used today by beauty influencers everywhere, this phrase is another brilliant line delivered by Damian. He uses it to describe Gretchen, whose dad invented the Toaster Strudel.

There you have it. Now that you’ve brushed up on the most fetch Mean Girls quotes, don’t forget to grab tickets for the show.

Silver Linings

Opera Tampa, the resident opera company of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, celebrates its 25th anniversary season with three electrifying main stage performances.

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Tampa Bay Magazine. We are happy to have permission to reprint it for our blog, in honor of the upcoming performances of Opera Tampa’s  Carmen Feb. 7-9.

Carmen. Photo by Rob Harris Productions.

A 25th anniversary is symbolized by silver, a lustrous metal that carries the highest capacity to conduct heat and electricity. Such characteristic seem fitting for the current Opera Tampa season, the grand opera company’s 25th, which boasts productions of Carmen, The Pirates of Penzance and Aida for this hallmark occasion.

“We wanted this season to make a statement since we know how important opera is to this community,” says Straz Center President and Opera Tampa General Director Judy Lisi. “There are so many people who live here who grew up listening to great opera around a radio or record player with their parents and grandparents. We also have a new generation of young opera fans who know the music from movie scores, cartoons and popular remakes and are discovering the excitement of the original material. We are putting up an epic season to honor the best of what everyone loves about great opera.”

Lisi, a Puccini aficionado and classically trained singer, launched her first successful opera company in Connecticut with Maestro Anton Coppola acting as artistic director. The pair ushered in a revival of great opera for the Shubert Theater in New Haven, building a loyal following and stellar reputation for excellence in programming and production. The duo reprised this success in Tampa, when Lisi and Coppola created Opera Tampa, producing Madama Butterfly to complement a Broadway tour of Miss Saigon, a musical adapted from the opera’s story.

“When we introduced grand opera at The Straz, we knew we wanted to work with what audiences who may not be familiar with opera already knew and loved, which was Broadway,” says Lisi. “The first year we started with Madama Butterfly; the second year RENT was on our Broadway season so, naturally, we staged La Boheme, the inspiration for Jonathan Larson’s hit musical. Our original plan was to put up one opera a season, but we quickly found out we had a strong audience for the art form here. Before we knew it, we were staging three huge productions per season.”

Pirate King, Pirates of Penzance. Photo by Rob Harris Productions.

Over the years, Opera Tampa has drawn internationally-renowned singers to Morsani Hall in the Straz Center to portray the towering characters that populate the opera canon. For the past quarter of a century, the company breathed life into the masterworks of Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, Wager, Bizet and Donizetti with outstanding local talent performing onstage with singers from The Met and La Scala. As the reputation and popularity of Opera Tampa grew, the organization decided to institute an annual recognition to someone in the field. After Maestro Coppola’s retirement, Opera Tampa unveiled The Anton Coppola Excellence in the Arts Award, bestowed each year at the Grand Gala. Recipients include such luminaries as Placido Domingo, Denyce Graves, Sherrill Milnes, Diana Soviero, Carlisle Floyd and Paul Plishka.

In November 2019, Opera Tampa held the inaugural D’Angelo Young Artist Vocal Competition, helping to establish Opera Tampa as an entity that not only produces great opera but also cultivates the next generation of opera performers. Through their extensive arts education program, Opera Tampa has also cultivated the next generation of audiences by bringing professional singers into school classrooms to get kids excited about opera music and stories. “When I look back over the past 25 years and assess the ways Opera Tampa has impacted this area culturally, educationally and artistically, I almost can’t believe how much has happened,” says Lisi. “What started as a hope that people would like this art form has grown into a full-fledged cultural institution. We have a solid name in the professional opera world; our successes in one of the most acoustically gorgeous theaters in America has people sitting up and taking notice of what’s happening in Tampa. We couldn’t be happier to have reached our 25th anniversary season with such momentum and excitement about what’s to come.”

Aida. Photo by Rob Harris Productions.

Under the baton of newly-appointed artistic director Robin Stamper, who has been with Opera Tampa as a director, choral master and pianist for several years, the future of the company looks rosy. “I have seen so much incredible talent appear with Opera Tampa in my 4 1/2 years with the company, not just onstage but with our extraordinary production crew and musicians,” says Stamper. “I am deeply honored to steward this magnificent company and to direct us into an exciting future.”

The 25th anniversary season promises to be lustrous with plenty of heat and electricity, starting with George Bizet’s Carmen in February, continuing with Gilbert and Sullivan’s madcap genius The Pirates of Penzance in March and concluding with Guiseppe Verdi’s iconic Aida in April. “We’re so grateful for the support and enthusiasm we’ve seen over the past two-and-a-half decades,” Lisi says. “We’re honored to be able to give such exemplary artistic works to everyone in this community.”

I Have Reptiles to Thank for It

A Straz Center exclusive interview with National Geographic LIVE! wildlife photographer Shannon Wild.

On Jan. 21, our popular National Geographic LIVE! speaker series kicks-off with Australian-born photographer Shannon Wild. Caught in the Act writer Marlowe Moore caught up with Shannon via phone at her home in Africa, where Shannon is currently working on a documentary about one of the only white lions left in the wild. Her documentary on that cat’s cousin, Pursuit of the Black Panther, inspired the lecture she’ll give here next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Hall.

Shannon Wild

Here, Marlowe chats with Shannon about a shared love of all things reptile, animals and the ups and downs of her toothy but charmed career choice.

Marlowe Moore: I’m super pumped up to talk with you because we have a couple of things in common, and one is that we have a shared love and appreciation for reptiles. I very rarely come across another woman who is totally out of her mind in love with reptiles. Can we start talking about how you grew up and how did you realize you were in love with reptiles? What were your introductory reptiles?

Shannon Wild: I don’t know exactly where the love of reptiles came from. It’s always been there. It definitely didn’t come from my parents. [laughs] They don’t share the same love … They tolerated it as I was growing up. I guess I found reptiles fascinating. Being in Australia, there’s a lot of varieties, so maybe that has something to do with it as well.

I remember rescuing a blue-tongued lizard. I think I was maybe eight years old. That was my first attempt at reptile rehabilitation, which I went on to do years later as a volunteer in Australia. Reptiles got me interested in photography in the first place because I had pet reptiles. I had snakes and lizards and all sorts of things. I just started taking pictures of them for myself, then it led to the next thing of shooting for other people and magazines.

Then I thought, “Hmm, I could take this seriously.” I enjoyed it even more than what I was doing at the time, which was working as a graphic designer. Photography was a way I could combine my love of animals with my creative side, to combine them into one sort of show. It evolved into a career. It took a long time—especially to get to the point of earning any kind of living out of it. I definitely have reptiles to thank for it. That’s for sure.

MM: I feel 100% certain that’s what I’m going to title this interview: “I Have Reptiles to Thank for It.”

SW [laughing]: It’s so true … I like them so much.

MM: So do I. I just want to hug them all the time.

SW: Oh my God. I never meet people that feel the same way. It’s hilarious.

MM: I actually lived in Australia for a while, attending uni in Wollongong for my study abroad.

SW: Oh, that’s where my father lives actually.

MM: In Wollongong?

SW: Yeah.

MM: Wow! That is crazy. Did you grow up there?

SW: Small world.

MM: Right?

SW:  I have a bit of a complicated family history. I’m actually adopted. Later, I found my biological parents. It’s my biological father who lives in Wollongong, whereas I grew up in Queensland.

MM: Did you grow up around Brisbane?

SW: Yeah, I grew up on the Gold Coast. Then moved west. My dad was a farmer, so we ended up back out west on the land. Once I was old enough and graduated from high school, I moved to Brisbane for a while, nearly a decade. Then I was in Melbourne for about four years. Then sold everything I owned, and up and moved to Africa on a whim.

MM: I love that part of your story so much. It’s the dream of many of us, yet you actually did it. It’s exciting. So, you pack up, you leave Australia, you move to Africa. What’s your end game here?

SW: I mean, honestly, if there was any logic to it, I would not have done it. I’m usually a very analytical, careful person … but I don’t know. Everything fell into place. I was at a point where I was very restless where I was career-wise. I was already looking for opportunities to work and move overseas.

Then a few things happened that opened up that I go into in my talk. I threw caution to the wind and ended up in Africa. It’s an interesting and funny story, but it’s something that I go into in the talk. It’s how I met my now husband, and it’s quite funny.

MM: Well, we won’t spoil anything in this interview. People will just have to come see the show if they want to know how it turned out for you in Africa.

SW: Yes. The story has everything. There’s reptiles. There’s moving to Africa …

MM: We’re excited. You’ll find that Tampa such a receptive audience. They’re just going to love you.

SW: That’s great!

MM: So, I’m was looking through your social, and there’s a photo of you and a king cobra. Can you talk a little bit about that moment, or is that going to be in the talk, too?

SW: No. Is that where I was probably laying down and it sort of went up and flared its hood?

MM:  Yes.

SW: Okay, so it was actually an Egyptian cobra, and it’s here in South Africa where I am at the moment. I realize people are out there probably like, “This woman is crazy.” But, I know my gear and I know the animal. I’m used to interpreting body language. I know the strike distance.

Egyptian Cobra. Photo by Shannon Wild

The image depends on the angle of the camera. It might look really close, but I’ll go within a safe distance, and I have a lot of experience knowing where to be. I have myself positioned at a nice, safe distance, but I wanted that shot of where it’s hooding. One of the things with animal photography is you have to get down low. As low as possible. Hence, the reason I’m lying on the ground. It looks like I probably couldn’t get away very quickly, but I know it’s a safe working distance.

Also, I have to be careful because they’re one of the spitting cobras, so if you annoy it enough, it will try to spray the venom in your eye. This one was somewhat relaxed. It got to the point where it obviously showed who was boss and did the nice flare out of that hood, which is the shot that I wanted to get. It’s a beautiful snake. I get so excited, but most people are like “Why?” “You’re crazy.” [laughs]

MM: I know. It’s so hard to articulate the love of snakes, the magic of what it feels like to be around them.

SW: Oh, yes.

MM: What are some of your favorite snakes? Or not even just snakes, but what are the animals that you just like to be around?

SW: Reptiles definitely always take the top position … My favorite out of all reptiles is the monitor species, so obviously the Komodo dragon. Seeing them in the wild is the pinnacle. I’ve been able to photograph Komodos a couple of times now, which is amazing. They’re just so massive and strong, but they’re also so incredibly confident in their own ability. It’s like, eh. They don’t care. They know that they can mess you up if they really want to.

But, they also are so chill. It’s really an interesting kind of contrast. I think maybe the thing that people can’t wrap their heads around is that because they don’t really understand the body language of a reptile, they just assume that it’s trying to get them. Whereas those of us who have experience with reptiles and observe them enough are able to interpret those little bits of body language that are more subtle than, say, mammals. Then we can predict the animal’s next move—usually.

We know if it’s uncomfortable or angry, or if it’s sort of relaxed, so we can act accordingly.

In terms of other animals I like to be around, oh my goodness. There have been so many incredible experiences, it’s hard to pull out a species, but, I mean, leopards are definitely up there. They’re stunning, but they’re very unpredictable as well—very dominant and strong.

The leopard is one of the most interesting cats because it’s so unpredictable. We have a saying here in Africa, the only predictable thing about leopards is their unpredictability. That’s it. You don’t mess with a leopard. I will walk where there are wild lions, but you do not want to surprise or corner a leopard. They say over here ‘it’s a hundred stitches a second.’ If you get attacked, I mean, oh my goodness. It’s all over. They’re insane. I have a lot of respect for them.

MM: I have a friend here who had a big cat sanctuary, so I was able to spend some time with his big cats, a tiger and some cougars. He knows a lot about leopard behaviors, but in captivity. I’m laughing as you’re saying all this because when we go and visit sanctuaries that have some of the big cats, whenever there’s a leopard, he’s just like, “Leopards are crazy, leopards are crazy.” But with the utmost respect.

SW: [laughing] Yes. It’s so true. We say the same thing. They literally are out of their minds crazy. I don’t know what it is that sets them apart from other cats because lions are so much bigger, but honestly if I didn’t have the safety of a vehicle, I would much rather stumble across a lion, which I have done on foot. 90% of the time they’ll run away. They’re like, “I’m out.”

Whereas with a leopard, it’s over before you realize what came out of the bushes. Thankfully, I was in a vehicle the whole time in India [photographing leopards], and we weren’t allowed to get out of the vehicle, which in Africa you can be in a lot of cases. I have a lot of experience filming on the ground. In India, it’s also a forest full of tigers. You’ve got tigers and leopards. You don’t want to get out of the vehicle.

MM: Just keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times.

SW: No sudden movements.

MM: Do not turn your back. [laughing] Shannon, will you talk a little bit about your life. It’s really cool. You’re doing it. You’re living the dream. You’ve been honest in your other interviews and on your YouTube videos about how hard it is. Just the grind that it takes to be able to have the life that you have … What inspires you to keep going because you’re facing a lot of circumstances where it would be easy to give up. What is it that keeps you out there?

SW: The passion for the animal. For me, when I’m out long term in the field, you don’t have basic amenities a lot of the time. You certainly don’t have luxuries. I’m a bit of a type-A person. I like to have things just so. It’s a real contrast to me to have to go out into the wild.

Shannon Wild with elephant

It was a real shift of mindset for me that I learned as I went. Honestly, I come back purely because of the passion for the wildlife, the happiness and contentment I feel when I’m out there in their presence regardless of how hard the conditions are. I’ve been shooting for 16 years, and I have so many situations where I could have given up, or I probably should have given up.

But, honestly, I feel like I’m so lucky that I get to do this job. It’s something I dreamed about doing, but somewhere in the back of my mind. It was too far away of a dream to actually acknowledge, the kind of dream you don’t even say out loud because it would never happen.

I’m so appreciative today. I feel like if I list all the troubles and challenges that I’ve had along the way, I’d sound like I was complaining, but there have been highs and lows. It’s a bumpy road. Two of my main challenges in the last kind of six years I go into in the talk. One is my cheetah attack, which I’m sure you’ve seen online.

MM: I did. We’ll save this conversation, too, so people have to come to see you if they want to find out about your cheetah attack.

SW: Yes, I tell you all about it. All the places I messed up. Why it happened.

MM: Did you at least end up with some really cool scars?

SW: I do. It’s been six years, and I still definitely have very visual scars, so if we per chance get to meet face to face, I can show you those. I’ve got clear bite-puncture wounds of the canines and stuff. It’s in an arc around my arm, but it’s healed surprisingly well because for the first two years, I had a very distinct arc indent where the mouth crushed my bicep. I was laughing the whole time—I was so embarrassed. You don’t understand. I knew how badly I’d messed up. If I get embarrassed, I get nervous, so I focus on making sure everyone else is super comfortable. I’m like, “It’s fine, it’s fine.” I just messed up so badly, but it’s healed pretty well, considering.

MM: Six years later, it’s totally cool. You have a totally cool cheetah scar.

SW: I don’t mind scars at all. They make great stories. I don’t know how much of a deep dive you’ve done into my social, but I also managed to break my back while I was out filming in India. I talk about that a little bit in the lecture, too. I just don’t go into a huge amount of detail because the lecture is about the actual panther and trying to create this documentary.

MM:  Oh my gosh, no. I didn’t come across the fact that you’d broken your back.

SW: I’m trying not to give it away, so people can be really surprised. There were a few challenges that went with trying to make this documentary [Pursuit of the Black Panther]. Not the least of which is that we’re trying to follow one very elusive animal in a massive forest that’s really dense. That was hard enough, but then there were definitely a few things along the way that made it, oh my goodness; I want to say one of the hardest films I’ve ever done, but what I’m working on at the moment is proving to be even more difficult. Oh my God. Why? Why do I do this? I don’t know.

MM: Can you talk a little bit about this new film, or is it classified information?

SW: No, no. It’s definitely not classified. We keep picking very difficult subjects. Our current project, this is my husband and I, we basically find the stories and pitch those. That’s what we did with the black panther. That’s what we’ve done with our current one for National Geographic, which is on white lions here in Kruger National Park. Like the black panther, there’s an abundance of them in captivity or in situations where they’re bred, but to appear naturally in the wild, there is only three in existence—ever.

They’re in our part of the world, so we’re trying to film them, but oh my Lord, it’s very difficult because one is an adult and he’s just … he’s old enough that he’s broken away from his pride and he’s trying to find his way, which means he has no set territory. We’re hoping that he settles down soon, but he’s crossing countries. Kruger’s right on the border of Mozambique, so he’s spending time in South Africa, then he just pops over into Mozambique. Then he comes back. There’s no collar, no tagging, so we have no idea where he’s going, when he’s going. Just the logistics of trying to find him and film the documentary with limited budget … we can’t be out in the field waiting on him.

This one particular lion is just … he’s all over the place.

MM: How do you find out where he is? Is there a phone tree where somebody’s like, “I just saw him, get up here to Mozambique,” or somebody is like, “Hey, I just saw him down here in South Africa.” How are you keeping up with his movements?

SW: We’re using a lot of methods. We have contact with different lodges in the area that have certain access to different sections of Kruger. If he comes into that range and they have a sighting, they’ll let us know. Then it’s a matter of if we can get out quick enough before he’s left … There’s only a certain amount that we can film in Kruger National Park itself because it’s different permits and la-de-da. Then if he goes into Mozambique, we can’t do anything about that because we don’t have filming permits for a different country. It’s proving a bit more difficult than the black panther.

MM: Oh, man.

SW: The white lion is a very interesting animal, that’s for sure. Then the other two white lions are some cubs who popped up, which was very lucky because when we first pitched the idea to National Geographic and got it green-lit, there was only that one adult male.

We were basically like the panther trying to make a whole documentary around this one animal. Whereas, now with a couple of cubs in the mix, we have a bit more flexibility of telling a full-on story of different life stages of such a unique cat. It’s pretty exciting. Very challenging. We keep picking difficult subjects. We need to pick something easy … We only have ourselves to blame.

Shannon Wild filming in South Africa

MM: Right. Next time you’ll have to do pigeons in Central Park or something.

SW: [laughs] Where’s the fun in that?

MM: So, where do you go for vacation? What do you do on your time off? Do you have time off? Maybe that should be the first question.

SW: Not really. I mean, I’m freelance, so there’s no regularity. I’m constantly looking for the next job. Also, I’m very much trying to diversify, so that there’s some sort of regular income coming in because being a photographer is such a difficult way to earn a living. There’s definitely no financial stability. Even when we have a long-term project. Nobody gets into this industry for the money, that’s for sure. Also, it’s taken me so long to get to this point where I feel like I’m starting to make something of it after 16 years.

It’s been such a hard job to get here that I can’t switch off anymore. If I technically had time to take off, I can’t not do something or work. Feel like I’m doing something that contributes to some kind of stability in the future. It’s something I need to work on a little bit because my husband’s always like, “Shannon, you’re a wreck.” “Calm down.” “Stop it.” But, that’s a bit hypocritical of him because he doesn’t stop either, so he can’t really tell me that. We’re as bad as each other.

MM: Right, so it’s kind of like an ‘I’ll stop when you stop’ situation?

SW: Yeah. I can’t relax. I can’t sit still and not do anything. I have to be doing something productive.

I used to like everything just so, and now if I’m in a situation where I’m in one place for too long, I’ll find myself getting restless. All the experience over the last few years has really rubbed off and changed a part of my innate personality because I literally … I think I’d drive myself nuts if I had to be in one place for a long amount of time.

MM: You do a lot of work. We noticed you’re predominantly terrestrial. Would you ever think about underwater photography?

SW: I actually really love it. In April last year, I went to Fiji and spent a bit of time in the water, and did a little bit of filming, did some shots diving. It reminded me how much I really love the water because I’d been on land for so long. I work in a lot of land-locked countries, but I really want to do more underwater.

MM: Well, look Shannon, I’d love to keep you on the phone all afternoon, but we know that you have an upcoming call.

SW: Yes, I have my first live rehearsal with Nat Geo that I am doing it from memory.

MM: This will be the talk that you’re bringing here?

SW: Yes, so as of yesterday I’ve been able to do it from memory. Today’s my first time doing it live to the Nat Geo offices.

MM:  No pressure.

SW: [laughs]  I’m terrified.

MM: You’ll totally crush it.

SW: I hope so. You’ll find out.

MM:    We’ll find out January 21st. We cannot wait to see you.

SW: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I’m super excited. I wish I was going to Florida for longer. I have to see the Everglades.

MM: If you ever want to come to the Everglades, I’ll hook you up with all the awesome stuff. Alligator courtship season starts soon, so this time of year is the best time to be down there.

SW: 100%. It’s on my very long bucket list.

MM: Done. All right. Well, good luck with Nat Geo. We’ll see you next week.

SW: Thank you.

Black Panther in India

Want tickets to Shannon Wild’s presentation Pursuit of the Black Panther? We got ‘em.

Arts Legacy REMIX

What started as a conversation about celebrating the Tampa area’s rich artistic heritage turned into a free concert series drawing unexpectedly large crowds. The Straz Center’s Arts Legacy REMIX was a long time in the making and looks like it’s here to stay.

After a brutal warrior’s stint in Vietnam that gave him an ultimatum to become brutal himself or take a higher calling, Fred Johnson chose love.

A longtime jazz musician who’d played with Aretha Franklin and Lionel Hampton and opened for Miles Davis, Fred immersed himself in studying Sufi wisdom and musical-spiritual cultures around the world. He wove this knowledge into his streetwise philosophy of caring for the neighborhood through the sharing of talents.

Fred Johnson

Fred eventually left The Straz to take this philosophy on the road, traveling around the world working with artists and community organizations to find paths of common ground and opportunities to teach. “I always kept in touch with The Straz and felt connected to the work here. I always felt, on some level, no matter where I was, I was an ambassador for Tampa. My journey out into the world was an extension of the work we did here, looking into how profoundly arts and artists can serve as catalysts for real transcendence and transformation,” he says.

Judy and Fred reconnected in 2016 at a Creative Forces forum, an organization dedicated to exploring ways the arts help veterans with PTSD and effects of traumatic brain injury.

“Our conversations were about the fact that society as a whole sees the therapeutic benefits of the arts from re-attaining wholeness with veterans to the growing need to find common ground among people,” Fred says. “We had started that notion with the Community Arts Ensemble, and we are living in times very receptive to this idea now.”

“We wanted to amplify that commitment and make real ways for the public to have greater access to The Straz. That’s what Arts Legacy was born from.”

Fred returned in 2017 to spearhead the Arts Legacy initiative which built on the philosophical foundations of art’s profoundly transformative role in the human experience.

FOTOSET BY JAMES LUEDDE

“Arts Legacy is about celebrating our community’s cultural impact,” says Straz Center President and CEO Judy Lisi. “Our community artists belong here, creating and having a place to be seen and appreciated. It’s very important that, as a community arts center, we represent the powerful sectors of culture right here. Fred took that notion and brought it to life; he’s always been great at working withdifferent members of the community to communicate and realize our commitment to all.”

Fred assembled a team of diverse community members to give input on what this Arts Legacy initiative would be. “The Straz has a responsibility to be an active community member, to have a voice at the table when decisions are being made that affect people.”

”Our legacy is redefining the role of art — that understanding art and creativity are the foundations to manifest change, to make the world a better place,” says Fred. Through a network of community members, the Arts Legacy team built a series of performances highlighting certain cultures that themselves are foundations to the Tampa Bay area.

FOTOSET BY JAMES LUEDDE

In essence, they got to the work of building bridges.

They got to the business of calling out to the heart and soul.

People answered.

The team took suggestions, made contacts, networked, organized and, in the end, produced six free concerts on the Riverwalk, drawing crowds of up to 500 people. They needed a name for the series and the Straz Center marketing team came up with Arts Legacy REMIX. “It’s hip, it’s inclusive,” says Fred, “and the success of Arts Legacy REMIX events was the outgrowth of reaching into the community and saying ‘hey, not only do we have one of the finest institutions in the world to present art, we also have this amazingly culturally and ethnically rich community that we can learn about from each other.’”

Last year, Arts Legacy REMIX hosted song, dance and drum performances around Hispanic heritage, Indian Diwali, Dr. King, Asian culture and global storytelling. Arts Legacy REMIX also hosted the Black Artists Film Series in the TECO Theater.

“It’s been really great just to see how excited people are about these performances and how much they look forward to it,” Fred says. “People are having an expanded relationship with The Straz and realizing how much we want to celebrate the arts and artistic traditions we have around us. It’s exciting to know we’re becoming more a part of people’s everyday lives by creating more opportunities for them to be on our grounds.”

FOTOSET BY JAMES LUEDDE

“We’re open to suggestions and ideas. We have the line-up for the 2019-2020 season and six more performances, but we are excited to engage as many members of the community as we possibly can,” Fred says. “Now more than ever, the artist is really important in putting a different kind of stamp on the human experience. We welcome community theater companies, community organizations — any folk out there who love what we’re doing and who want to support what we do; they can email communityprograms@strazcenter.org

The next Arts Legacy REMIX performance will be an MLK Commemoration: Power of Storytelling on Jan 17.  performances take place on the Riverwalk Stage, free of charge.