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Live Active Cultures

2012's most memorable moments in theater, thrill rides and theme parks

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BIG NAZO AT FRINGE: The Orlando Fringe Festival hit it out of Loch Haven Park last May under new producer Michael Marinaccio, with first-rate shows and record-breaking ticket sales. For me, nothing beat stage-managing Big Nazo, the troupe of outsized intergalactic puppet-monsters that made mirth at Kids Fringe and invaded the festival lawn.

TRANSFORMERS & CARS LAND: 2012 was a transitional year at Orlando's attractions, but California debuted dueling blockbusters. Cars Land at Disneyland's rebuilt California Adventure Park proved the most immersive environment outside of the Wizarding World, while Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers ride (arriving here next summer) sets a new standard for 3-D thrills.

URBAN RETHINK'S COLLIDE*SCOPE: In the August edition of the monthly meet-up, Thornton Park's Urban ReThink invited an artist (Jeremy Seghers), an academic (James Jessup), an activist (Michael Dippy) and a politician (Bill Segal) to imagine a high-tech way of helping the homeless. The resulting conversation was contentious, thought-provoking and just what Orlando needs more of.

MAD COW MOVES: While I've quibbled with some of its individual offerings over the years, Mad Cow Theatre has consistently produced shows whose quality outstripped its humble facilities. After endless wrangling, the herd has finally moved into a beautiful new barn – a fitting setting for the sparkling Sondheim they christened Church Street with.

LABYRINTH LIVE: I grew up adoring anything by Jim Henson, especially his eccentric David Bowie musical fantasy film, Labyrinth. Getting to direct a live audience-participation production of the film with Ibex Puppetry's Heather Henson – and performing it to a sold-out crowd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – wasn't just the peak of my year: It was a childhood dream come true.

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