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Our summer hiatus is over and members and friends of the Estonian Society of Central Florida will be gathering again to share stories of how they spent their summer vacations and to begin planning activities for the 2014-15 season. The next luncheon of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, October 5, 2014, at The Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge, 540 1st St SE, St. Petersburg, Florida; telephone: 727-823-7767. The restaurant has a diverse menu of items at moderate prices. Please join us!

For information about the Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, please contact:
Mr. Rein Raja at (727) 866-2614, raja77@verizon.net
or
Ms. Maare Kuuskvere at (941) 795-6835, jaank@verizon.net

The Lithuanian American Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, organized a wonderful luncheon to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Baltic Chain. Invited speakers included Lisa A. Mets, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia; Irene Ezerins, a representative of the local Latvian community; and Algimantas Karnavicius, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania.

Spring ushers in birthdays of a number of members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts). At its regular monthly meeting on Sunday, April 6, 2014, members punctuated their luncheon meeting with a birthday cake in honor of the celebrants. The luncheon program featured KFES member Jüri Toomepuu, who discussed his book recently released in Estonia: “Eesti lähiajaloo kolm põhiprobleemi, kolmkümmend kolm lahendust”. Congratulations, Jüri!

The Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) is now on summer hiatus. Due to early travel schedules, the May picnic has been canceled. We look forward to gathering together again on Sunday, October 5, 2014. Happy summer and safe travels to all!

Members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) celebrated a special week from March 12 to 17, 2014, with Estonian musician/writer/tv personality/talk show host and now playwright Mihkel Raud who was in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the international premiere of his play American Monkey.

Members of the local Estonian community rolled out their own version of a red carpet to welcome Mihkel and Liina Raud and daughter Mirjam to the community. A dinner party was hosted by Estonian Honorary Consul Lisa Mets and her husband Erkki Taada the evening the Rauds arrived. On Thursday, Mihkel Raud was a distinguished guest speaker in the Introduction to Acting Class taught by Professor Antonia Krueger at Eckerd College. On Saturday, following a “talk-back” at the theatre, an opening night after-party was hosted by Tõnu Toomepuu, President of the Estonian Society of Central Florida, and his wife Robin, at their home.

On Saturday night, March 15, 2014, Mihkel Raud’s “American Monkey” opened to a sold-out theatre. Mihkel Raud beamed with joy to see the production rewarded by the audience with a standing ovation. The play received support from the Estonian Ministry of Culture through its program “Estonian Culture in the World.”

Reality television in all its varieties seems fueled by the viewing audience’s thirst for acts of humiliation. When will it stop? Likely not until we take our eyes off the screen and take time to examine ourselves. “American Monkey” forces us to do just that. In 90 minutes in the theatre. For the rest of the night at home.

“American Monkey” turns the table on the usual scheme in reality television talent shows, characterized in this play as a modern version of Rome’s Colosseum. The play begins innocently enough like any other TV talent show but soon contestant Fred takes charge. It turns out he has a more personal motive in mind when he comes to his audition. He isn’t there to convince the judges to advance him to the next round; he’s there to get even. In any other play, the audience would serve as passive spectators to the scenes; in this play, we can’t watch without becoming drawn in ourselves. This is a dark comedy; we feel uncomfortable; we’re grateful for moments that give us permission to laugh. We’re complicit in the horror; in fact, we’re given a chance to vote. The moral dilemmas we watch the characters face are ones we should be facing ourselves.

The freeFall Theatre is known for taking risks and producing edgy plays and this is its first international premiere. Fabulously talented actors Patrick Ryan Sullivan, Stefanie Clouse and John Lombardi were archetypical judges completely convincing in their roles. Chris Jackson as Fred earned a well deserved ovation.

The theatre’s award-winning director Eric Davis learned about the play from Broadway producer Sharon Carr and decided to bring the play to this highly respected playhouse in Florida. Industry readings of the play were held in September 2013 at New York City’s Primary Stages Rehearsal Space. Rewrites continued in St. Petersburg with contributions by director Eric Davis and playwright Natalie Symons.

After the play closes in St. Petersburg, what’s next? I would love to see this play picked up by college theatre programs around the country—places with auditoriums where audiences cross generations.

A preview of the play was published March 10, 2014 and a review was published March 17, 2014, in the Tampa Bay Times by performing arts critic Stephanie Hayes (tampabay.com).

The freeFall Theatre, located at 6099 Central Avenue, in St. Petersburg, Florida, is staging Mihkel Raud’s American Monkey from March 14 to March 30, 2014. For the run of the show we have arranged discounted ticket sales. To purchase tickets, please call freeFall Theatre at 727.498.5205 and let them know you are part of the “Estonia” group.

Friends and members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) were treated to a special reading and book signing as we welcomed Urve Tamberg, author of The Darkest Corner of the World, at Barnes and Noble, 4010 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, from 2:00-4:00 pm on Sunday, March 9, 2014. Please visit Ms. Tamberg’s web site to learn more about the author and the many accolades attributed to her first book.

Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States and Mexico, and The Honorable Sten Schwede, Consul General of the Republic of Estonia in New York City, traveled to Florida’s west and east coasts on February 21, 2014 and February 24, 2014 to officially open two Honorary Consulates of the Republic of Estonia. Florida is the nation’s fourth most populous state—soon expected to be third—and a popular draw for education, cultural programs, tourism and business development. Florida’s large territory is now divided into two consular regions with St. Petersburg serving northern counties and Miami serving the south. Members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) and Estonian National Association of South Florida (Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Selts) participated in both ceremonies.

Lisa A. Mets, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia in St. Petersburg, Florida, hosted the formal luncheon program in the President’s Dining Room at Eckerd College on February 21, 2014, attended by members of the Tampa Bay Consular Corps, Eckerd College Board of Trustees and the Pinellas County Commission; Eckerd College Deans, Vice Presidents and students; and the leadership of the Estonian Society of Central Florida and the Estonian National Association of South Florida. Ambassador Kaljurand officiated during the ceremony transmitting to Estonian Honorary Consul Mets the Letters Patent issued by Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Donald R. Eastman III, President of Eckerd College, Dr. Peter Betzer, President and CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, Mr. Chris Steinocher, President and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Art Savage, Dean of the Tampa Bay Consular Corps, offered words of welcome and underscored the spirit of collaboration Estonia may expect in its relationship with Eckerd College, the Tampa Bay region, and north Florida counties, in the development of programs promoting educational and cultural exchange, tourism and business opportunities. The Honorary Consulate is located at Eckerd College, where Honorary Consul Mets is Vice President and Secretary of the College.

Attending the February 21, 2014 official opening of the Estonian Honorary Consulate in St. Petersburg, Florida: Estonian Consul General Sten Schwede, Pinellas County Commission Chair Karen Williams-Seel, President & CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Chris Steinocher, Estonian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Estonian Honorary Consul Lisa Ann Mets, and President & CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership Peter Betzer.  Photo: Kalle Kaljurand

Attending the February 21, 2014 official opening of the Estonian Honorary Consulate in St. Petersburg, Florida: Estonian Consul General Sten Schwede, Pinellas County Commission Chair Karen Williams-Seel, President & CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Chris Steinocher, Estonian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Estonian Honorary Consul Lisa Ann Mets, and President & CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership Peter Betzer. Photo: Kalle Kaljurand

Following the ceremony, Ambassador Kaljurand participated in a seminar with Eckerd College students majoring in International Relations and Global Affairs and Political Science.

Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States and Mexico, with Eckerd College students majoring in International Relations and Global Affairs and Political Science. Feb 21 2014, St. Petersburg, FL

Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States and Mexico, with Eckerd College students majoring in International Relations and Global Affairs and Political Science. Feb 21 2014, St. Petersburg, FL. Photo: Lisa A. Mets


In the evening, the Ambassador, Consul General and members of the Estonian community attended the sold-out 1700-seat Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall performance of the Sarasota Orchestra under the baton of the orchestra’s new music director and conductor Ms. Anu Tali; a reception followed with Ms. Tali and her Estonian fans. The Estonian Society of Central Florida’s celebration of the 96th Anniversary of Estonian Independence in the Countryside Country Club (Clearwater, FL) on February 22, 2014, concluded the diplomats’ program on Florida’s west coast. (For more information, please see floridaestos.wordpress.com). Participation by Ambassador Kaljurand and Consul General Schwede in the Estonian National Association of South Florida’s celebration of the 96th Anniversary of Estonian Independence on February 23, 2014, in the Atlantis Country Club on the east coast launched Day 3 of the diplomats’ honorary consular activities in Florida.

Jorge L. Viera, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia in Miami, Florida, hosted the official opening ceremony of the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Miami in an evening reception sponsored by BAC Florida Bank on February 24, 2014, in the BAC Florida Bank located in the Colonnade Building, Coral Gables. Mr. Burton Landy, Esq., of Akerman & Senterfitt and Honorary Consul of Korea, introduced the evening’s program and welcomed guests from the Miami Consular Corps, Past Presidents of the Florida International Bankers Association, officials of the City of Miami and the United States Department of State, distinguished members from the local business community, and the Directors of the Estonian National Association of South Florida. Three Estonian Honorary Consuls also attended the ceremony: Mr. Jaak Treiman, representing Southern California; Mrs. Irja Cilluffo, representing New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont; and Ms. Mets, representing the north Florida region.

Estonian Honorary Consuls Jaak Treiman and Irja Cilluffo, Her Excellency Ambassador Marina Kaljurand, Estonian Honorary Consuls Jorge Viera and Lisa Ann Mets, and Estonian Consul General Sten Schwede. February 24, 2014. Miami, FL

Estonian Honorary Consuls Jaak Treiman and Irja Cilluffo, Her Excellency Ambassador Marina Kaljurand, Estonian Honorary Consuls Jorge Viera and Lisa Ann Mets, and Estonian Consul General Sten Schwede. February 24, 2014. Miami, FL. Photo: Sergio Alsina

The Honorable Tomas Regalado, Mayor of the City of Miami, presented the Key to the City of Miami to Ambassador Kaljurand. Commissioner Willy Gort, Chair of the Commission, presented a Proclamation to Consul General Sten Schwede declaring February 24, 2014 as Estonia’s Independence Day in The City of Miami. Ambassador Kaljurand officially transmitted the Letters Patent issued by Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to Honorary Consul Viera. The Estonian Honorary Consulate is located in downtown Miami. Prior to his recent retirement from Northern Trust Bank after more than 33 years, Mr. Viera served as Senior Vice President and Manager of the International Division. Presently, Estonian Honorary Consul Viera is a member of the Board of Directors of BAC Florida Bank.

Presenting Her Excellency Ambassador Marina Kaljurand the Key to the City of Miami: Honorary Consul Jorge Viera, Mayor of the City of Miami The Honorable Tomas Regalado and Chair of the Commission of the City of Miami Mr. Willy Gort. February 24, 2014. Miami, FL.

Presenting Her Excellency Ambassador Marina Kaljurand the Key to the City of Miami: Honorary Consul Jorge Viera, Mayor of the City of Miami The Honorable Tomas Regalado and Chair of the Commission of the City of Miami Mr. Willy Gort. February 24, 2014. Miami, FL. Photo: Sergio Alsina

Currently there are fourteen Estonian Honorary Consulates in the United States. In addition to providing services to Estonians in the United States according to the directives of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonian Honorary Consuls promote bilateral cultural, educational and economic relations through Estonian cultural events, educational exchange, tourism, and business development.

For more information about Estonia’s Consulate General and Honorary Consuls in the United States, please visit the web site of the Consulate General of the Republic of Estonia in New York City. For more information about Embassy activities, please visit the web site of the Estonian Embassy in Washington DC.

Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States and Mexico, and The Honorable Sten Schwede, Consul General of the Republic of Estonia in New York City, celebrated the 96th Anniversary of Estonian Independence with 80 guests, members and friends of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts), at a special luncheon on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at the Countryside Country Club, 3001 Countryside Blvd., Clearwater, Florida.

The official luncheon program was rich in content. KFES President Tõnu Toomepuu welcomed guests and we began with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Pastor Priit Rebane offered the invocation. Ms. Monika Orumaa Craig, member of the Estonian American National Council, read the Council’s greetings on the occasion of the 96th Anniversary of Estonian Independence. The Honorable Consul General Sten Schwede led us in a memorial tribute (Langenute Mälestamine) to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for Estonian independence. Ms. Triin Karr read the moving poem Sini Must Valge written by Aale Oengo Kingo. KFES President Toomepuu’s introduction of Ambassador Kaljurand was a tribute to an extraordinary diplomat. Ambassador Kaljurand’s keynote speech was spellbinding filled with Estonia’s impressive accomplishments and a call for our continuing support for Estonia’s everlasting independence; the audience listened with enormous pride and a renewed commitment to their Estonian heritage so far away from their homeland.

There was lots of fun during this special celebration. An Estonian Quiz was introduced this year, with 12 tables in competition. The Judges? The Ambassador and her husband and the Consul General. The outcome of the Quiz? 100% correct answers. We can expect no less of Estonians. The loterii led by Ms. Marju Cabrera, ably assisted by Logan and Annika Karr, and Kaie Põhi Latterner’s sing-along between speeches energized our spirits. The afternoon was made sweeter with a basket of candies, a gift from the Ambassador, offered to members by Annika Karr. Lisa Ann Mets, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia in St. Petersburg, Florida, offered closing remarks. The program concluded with the beautiful Eesti Hümn.

Please visit the links on this website for upcoming meetings and events hosted by the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts).

For information about the Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, please contact:
Mr. Rein Raja at (727) 866-2614, raja77@verizon.net
or
Ms. Maare Kuuskvere at (941) 795-6835, jaank@verizon.net

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