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December 06th, 2021

vivo spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


“What difference can ONE SONG make?”

As someone who was in band for several years, I can unequivocally state one song can make a difference for someone, and that’s exactly what I said out loud when this question posed early on in Netflix’s new animated film “Vivo.” The movie follows  a music-loving kinkajou from Cuba named Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the movie’s songs) as he embarks on the journey of a lifetime to deliver a love song for an old friend with some new friends, including young Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). 

Much like “In The Heights,” the  first thing I have to say about this movie is it has A LOT of energy – i.e., if you were take the  energy that practically vibrated  from this movie, you could power practically  the  entirety of Florida AND Cuba. The  colors and scenery design are dazzling to look at,  everything is extremely colorful (particularly the scenes that take place in Miami later on in the movie), and the animation throughout the movie was very well done. I also really liked the parts where main characters are traveling through the Florida Everglades, they’re made to be mysterious and kind of spooky, and there were a couple moments where even I couldn’t help but be worried about what was lurking in those waters. The studio behind “Vivo” was also behind “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse,” so to me, it’s no surprise the animation was at a high quality. Overall,  the  movie is very bright and vibrant and it would be nearly impossible to be bored while watching it. 

The voice cast throughout the movie also did a great job. Lin-Manuel Miranda did a great job in the title role and injected humor and heart and every other emotion into his performance – there were multiple times when I was brought to some tears because of his voicework. Ynairaly Simo also did a great job as Gabi – like other female characters I’ve seen in recent movies, she is an absolute firecracker and she did an absolutely fantastic job making Gabi so fierce and funny, and I foresee her becoming a superstar in the future, somewhat like Auli'i Cravalho, the lead in Disney’s “Moana” (which Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote music for). Overall, everyone in the voice cast did a great job, and the voicework was very much a highlight. 

richard renner spotlight pageSlapstick clown Richard Renner prepares a trick during a past show. Renner will be performing at this year’s 5-State Fair. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


This year’s 5-State Fair will be full of activities and shows for people to attend, and one of those performers will be slapstick circus clown Richard Renner. 

Renner will be performing at 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20 on the Seward County Activity Center stage, and will also perform at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21 on the Seward County Activity Center stage. As Renner tells it, his bite from the performing bug came in high school. 

“I became interested in theatre in high school after I broke my arm playing football, and I found theatre to be much less physically hazardous,” Renner said with a laugh. “So I started participating in the school plays while in high school and continued doing that in college at KU and somewhere along the line, I learned how to juggle, which actually took quite a bit of time. I had seen some street jugglers and became fascinated by what they were doing, and I realized that was something I could learn too. After I finished school, I started trying to get as a professional actor, which is actually rather difficult in Kansas – typically, you'd have to go to L.A. or somewhere else in order to try for any success.”

While ultimately not ending up in L.A., Renner said he did discover something else. 

“I did find I was a pretty good street performer and I knew how to read a crowd, so I did some more training, during which I got a lot of great advice from my teachers, who included Marcel Marceau, who’s a wonderful French mime master, Yuri Belov, who’s a famous Russian clown, and Avner the Eccentric, who’s a very well known and famous New Vaudevillian. After all of that, I eventually started Vodvill Entertainment Company. A lot of my comedy is inspired by vaudeville comedians, the Marx Brothers and Jerry Lewis and Red Skelton, those comedians who were amazing at getting into character and using that to be funny, so a lot of my show also appeals to adults. A lot of children who attend my shows often think I look somewhat like Spongebob because I wear a bright yellow shirt.”

the testaments spotlight pageELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Some time ago, I got the chance to finally read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and ended up really liking it. Not too long after I read it, I discovered there was a sequel, “The Testaments,” that came out in 2019, and I finally got the chance to read it recently after borrowing it from the library. The events of “The Testaments” take place 15 years after the events of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and  is narrated by Aunt Lydia, (a character from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead and the daughter of a prominent Commander, and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada who opposes Gilead and all it stands for.

One of the first things I noticed about the book is how modern the writing style is. The dialogue from all of the characters reads like how people actually talk, profanity and all (though there’s not too much of that), and it’s actually somewhat refreshing reading something in that style. Also with the writing style, I liked how each of the three main characters have their own distinctive voices and how the reader gets the chance to really know what they’re thinking. While I definitely enjoyed reading the progression of the bond between Agnes and Daisy, the most interesting parts of the book (for me) were the chapters dedicated to Aunt Lydia and how she’s working behind the scenes of everything and also how she became the frightening figure from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The only minor quibble I have with this aspect of the book is I wish the transitions between the chapters could have been slightly smoother – for me, each of the chapters ended rather abruptly and there wasn’t really much chance for a smooth transition to the next part of the story. 

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