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Loco For Love Festival Reimagined and Revitalized

Three masked women and one masked man stand in a clearing
Theater With A Mission
Even the actors in the various performances will be appropriately masked and socially distanced.

Saturday's virtual festival will be immersive, interactive and international.

One of Tallahassee's more unique multi-cultural celebrations happens this Saturday. Tom Flanigan reports the annual Loco For Love Festival will use its newfound online format to expand its horizons.

Ben Gunter is a true Renaissance person. He's an actor, a musician, and an impresario of sorts. The founder of Theater With a Mission, which is devoted to translating classical Spanish stage works for a modern American audience.

"It started in 2008 with an opportunity to use plays from the Spanish 'Golden Age' to enrich peoples' understanding of milestone events in Florida's history. And it's kept going from there," he recalled.

The general concept soon found a focus in a yearly multi-cultural festival called Loco for Love. The Theater's Idy Codington was quick to jump in as director and choreographer.

"We have been doing 'Loco for Love' since 2016. And in it, we do all sorts of those Spanish 'Golden Age' plays and puppets and drama and dueling and people cooking Florida fusion food and we give it to people for free. And we invite everyone to come enjoy what we offer and we're really good at what we do," she said.

Although, given the imperatives of the pandemic, Ben Gunter stressed the event this year is following a familiar arc.

"This festival is going to be completely virtual. So you don't have to risk your health in order for you to come face-to-face with history. It remains immersive. There will be hands-on activities. We've got puppet-building instructional videos so people can learn how to build their own puppet and a make a show about their own vision of Florida."

And beyond that personal vision, Gunter said there will be many viewpoints brought to bear on the question, "Where did Florida come from?" during the festival.

"You'll get to look at Florida Territory through the eyes of Native Americans, Africans, Spanish speaking people, and United States Citizens. It remains an immersive experience with lots of hands-on activities, but it's all virtual."

And because of that format, Gunter said this year's Loco for Love is literally extending its reach internationally.

"We'll have our first international artists featured, since Efe 3 De Antro from Mexico City will be Zooming us in two performances of Cevantes entremeses; short one-acts in which one actor plays all the roles. His name is Fernando Villa and he is mesmerizing to watch."

There will even be some virtual mixology in the mix.

"We will be having Andrew and Cindy Batten, History Channel experts on Florida fusion foods coming in to teach us how to mix the appropriate beverage for toasting territorial Florida."

There will be much, much more, said both Codington and Gunter. Enough to fill an entire day.

"Saturday, March 27th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m."
"You can get free tickets by going to Theater With A Mission's website."

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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