Comic Cure's Laughter in the Library

The Miami-Dade Public Library System and Comic Cure have teamed up for something truly unique. A one-hour history of Miami wrapped inside a comedy show.  The free show travels from library to library and was born out of the The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge with investment by Target.

Freddy Stebbins teaches through laughter, from the Native Americans through today

Freddy Stebbins teaches through laughter, from the Native Americans through today

Miami-Dade College professor and award-winning comedian Freddy Stebbins gets in costume and character as he relives the magical moments and people that transformed Miami into the Magic City it is today. Not only did I laugh, I learned. Really!

Locally, the show was already in Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest. The last show of the series is Saturday, April 6 @ 4:00 PM, Northeast Branch Library – 2930 Aventura Blvd., Aventura.

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2019 Relay for Life in South Dade

This year’s American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life was held in Palmetto Bay’s Coral Reef Park. Called ShamROCK in the Park, since it was held the day before St. Patrick’s Day, the day was filled with energy, emotion and fundraising.

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Organized by Suzanne Levitats, whose husband is a 20-year cancer survivor (after being told he had 4-months to live), explained, “I’ve been organizing this event for 8 years. Bringing awareness to the community and raising money is what we do. Our goal is to bring an end to cancer and we know this helps. Locally, we’ve raised more than $19M for local use in the fight against cancer.”

[L-R] Cutler Bay Councilman Roger Coriat, Mark & Suzanne Levitats, Pinecrest Mayor Joe Corradino and Palmetto Bay Mayor Karyn Cunningham

[L-R] Cutler Bay Councilman Roger Coriat, Mark & Suzanne Levitats, Pinecrest Mayor Joe Corradino and Palmetto Bay Mayor Karyn Cunningham

 “This is awe-inspiring and emotional at times. To see the community respond like this is tremendous,” husband Mark added. “I know that a cancer patient needs everyone by their side pushing them forward. When I went through it, I started asking ‘Why me? Why did I get cancer?’ and eventually the question changed to ‘Why did I survive’. I’m not sure, but I do know that the support, love and attention from my family, friends and community helped in the battle. Everyone needs champions in their corner during the battle.”

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Tears, hugs and smiles powered the day, especially with the Luminaria Ceremony, where hundreds of candles in white bags were lit in honor of those who were and are battling cancer.

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The event was co-hosted and supported by Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Homestead as well as a host of sponsors. Palmetto Bay Mayor Karyn Cunningham said, “We want to give hope to those with cancer. Every bite of food, every activity and anything bought at this event raises money that go directly to fight cancer.” Pinecrest Mayor Joe Corradino added, “This is one of the best community events we do all year and it is great to see all of South Dade come together. It’s fantastic to be a part of this.”

[L-R] Anthony and Lisa Askowitz with Suzanne and Mark Levitats

[L-R] Anthony and Lisa Askowitz with Suzanne and Mark Levitats

2018 Stage 2 cancer survivor and attendee Anthony Askowitz summed up how it felt to him, “This event never loses its impact. I put on the purple Survival T-Shirt when I arrived at the event, but had to take it off mid-way through because it felt ‘too heavy’ for me. I’m done with cancer and taking that shirt off was a liberating statement for me.”

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ShamROCK in the Park featured local school performances, and, as the name implied, some great rock bands that took the event from evening into the night. It is estimated that the relay, carried out by teams and individuals, logged hundreds of miles of steps. You can make a donation to benefit South Dade at relayforlife.org/southdadeFL.

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Palmetto HS Heads to Prestigious Thespian Festival

Miami Palmetto Senior High School’s Troupe 1298 is riding high these days. The group was selected to perform their production of the Tony award-winning smash hit musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa on March 21.

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It’s the first time in decades a Miami-Dade Public School has been invited to perform at the Festival - the largest in the world, with more than 10,000 students participating. Further, Palmetto High School will be on the mainstage (Morsani Hall) in the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. With over 2600 seats, the theater dwarfs Broadway and the Adrienne Arsht Center in capacity and stage size. More importantly, scouts will be on hand to potentially propel the school into the national spotlight and might even take four students (Ethan Rousso, Jake Zimelman, Katherine Diez and Natalia Fernandez) closer to winning a Jimmy Award.

Gianfranco Madonia, Ethan Rousso and Katherine Diez before the show

Gianfranco Madonia, Ethan Rousso and Katherine Diez before the show

The Jimmy Awards are presented by The Broadway League Foundation and are the high school equivalent of a Tony Award. For years, Drama Teacher Robin Barson has been looking for a path for her students to be recognized at a national level. It looks as if that’s about to happen.

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The cast and crew have been inspired by the concept that they are the ‘Little Engine That Could’. Barson explains, “This is an incredible honor for Miami Palmetto Senior High School, our community, and particularly for the thespians. Our students will take the same stage where touring Broadway productions perform. In addition, this special production has received nine regional nominations for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA). We are enormously proud of the dedication and hard work of our talented student cast and crew.”

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“With the endless number of hours and love we’ve put into this, the experience is going to be not only something we deserve but that we will cherish forever,” reflects actor Gianfranco Madonia. “Ever since the 6th grade, my dad has helped influence my decisions and to go out and give and get pleasure in Tampa and make our names know is so special. This will help me in college and is a great stepping stone to my future.”

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Lead actress Katherine Diez is not only excited about the festival, but the chance to be selected for a Jimmy Award. “It would validate the hard work I’ve put into this craft since the 4th grade and even though this may not be my major, it would be a thrill to have it happen. I look forward to having a great time in Tampa with my classmates.”

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 “It feels amazing and surreal to me that this is even happening. It means the world to me. We started this show about a year ago and Ms. Barson told us she wanted to take the long-shot of getting us to mainstage in Tampa. It is extraordinary that we got chosen and there are no words to describe where we are right now,” gushed lead actor Ethan Rousso. “We are getting our one shot to perform and take this opportunity as far as we can!”

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Performing in Tampa involves moving lots of people, the sets and other equipment. Fundraising is underway to raise $30,000. You can support the effort by going to gofundme.com/send-the-drowsy-chaperone-to-states

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