Though I left my post as operations and producing manager at The Patel Conservatory two years ago, I retained a responsibility that has proved to be a highlight of my time there: I am charged with recruiting over 100 financial-need students for full scholarships to Patel's summer performing arts programming, up to three weeks of camp or one 10-week class.
The Access Arts Scholarship program morphed out of a program called the Community Arts Ensemble, started by Fred Johnson years ago before the Patel Conservatory was even a glint in the eye of the former Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (now the Straz Center for the Performing Arts). The Community Arts Ensemble (CAE) was a free program for the first 200 community members to sign up. Period. It was a hugely successful program and brought 200 community members into the building every summer people who may not have had the opportunity to do so had the program not been in place.
Why does one come to the theater if one does not want to watch the play? Case in point: The Woman in Black sold out performance last night. I directed the show and have been to just about every performance, so I tend to watch the audience as well as the play. It is a thriller with many technical aspects that all need to be spot-on every night, so I watch how it is all played out and how it is all received by the audience. So, Sunday night being a sold out show, I lingered on the sidelines so that those who paid for a ticket got a seat. I had the perfect view and it was the perfect audience. Almost.
Perhaps I should explain "perfect audience." Have you ever been an observer of art with a whole room full of strangers with whom you collectively took the journey with the artist -- as one? Ever been at a performance where you needed to see that exact thing at that exact time in your life? Ever been inspired collectively with the person sitting next to you, without talking to each other? It is not a type of audience, per se, but rather the right combination for the particular experience at hand.
Conversely, as a performer or fellow audience member sitting in your vicinity, if you've had a bad day at work and can't shake it off, we feel it. If you had too much to drink at happy hour before you got to the theater, we feel it. If you are waiting for that voice mail or text message and want intermission to get here so you can check it, we feel it. Or, in the case of last night's performance, if you did not come to the theater to watch a play, we feel it.
Sunday's play was 98 percent the perfect audience.
We're now just a few days away from the end of this 10th season, and I've had time for further reflection.
We finish the final show of our season, a rousing and hilarious punk rock mob reimagining of the Pericles story, with a video tribute to 10 awesome years in Tampa Bay. From the genesis of the company, represented by a photo of five awkward and rebellious 20-somethings on the loading dock of USF's Theater I, cycling through all of our productions and major milestones, to a staged promotional shot of our dead-sexy board in one of the Carol Morsani Hall dressing rooms, photographed by Steve Widoff.
It moves me every night. Oh, yeah, I've watched every single performance of Pericles -- from lights up to lights down -- something I've never done before.
As a freelance artist I find myself in a lull of productivity sometimes. In the springtime I tend to do a lot of administrative work for the Access Arts Scholarship program for the Patel Conservatory, so my artistic side isn't being shopped out to other companies as much (i.e. I don't audition for shows during that time.)
In these times I always think I am going to dust off that script of the one-woman
Well, local actor Curtis Belz found the gumption, self-motivation, and two friends (eventually more), to pull off Danny Hoch's (pictured) Jails, Hospitals and Hip-hop, a one-man show demanding that he play several personas, including Flip, a good ol' boy from the Midwest who has come to identify with urban hip-hoppers; Bronx, a sidewalk vendor who gets pinched for selling without a license; and Sam, a prison guard with an anger management problem -- evidenced by his beating a prisoner nearly to death. The show is playing tonight as Jobsite's latest Job-side project. This is the second of two preview performances before its full incarnation in September at HCC Ybor.
Editor's Note: Actor/director/teacher/playwright Ami Sallee Corley (right) continues her series of posts about the challenges of being a freelance artist in Tampa Bay. This week's topic: Auditions.
There is no one-stop shopping spot where people list auditions. If there is, it has got to be Tampa's best-kept secret. Raise your hand if you knew that Jobsite just held their 2009-2010 season auditions last week and that American Stage held their auditions over a month ago? Most other theaters are participating in the Tampa Area Unified Auditions next weekend, hosted by HCC Ybor.
Watch out everybody, Bridget's unleashed for the summer!
Well, you know, that really is an overstatement 'cos I'm not much of a late night gal, but the Gorilla Theatre is dark for the summer (which means we don't have any shows going on and I'm working "normal" hours) so it's time for me to get out more and .... to see theatre in other places. This week I went to an All Out Rep show at the Ritz, I visited Arts on 9th, and went to the 5th Annual Night of Alternative Theatre at American Stage in St. Pete.
Oh, and I welcome all your comments on this blog (like "stop writing about yourself already" or "what's with the strange European punctuation?") so please chip in, loveys!
So, Wednesday evening I had a wonderful time at home (mmm!) ... but by Thursday I was stir crazy and headed to Ybor to see All Out Rep's The Agreeable Husband. I love Ami (Sallee Corley) and Shana (Perkins) the gals behind All Out Rep so much that I drank four of the Ritz's excellent gin and tonics and felt decidedly Studio 54 (well one DOES, doesn't one, at the Ritz) as I watched some of the best dance you could hope to see. Even the students in the pre-show were astonishingly good (gone are the days when kids like my sister used to sneak out the back door to dance class because it was so nerdy) and the gorgeous Emilia Sargent sang a couple of fabulously smoky and enticing numbers too.
So, after the Agreeable Husband I walked over to see the place into which John Burchett (who I know and admire for his beautiful lighting design and warm flirtiness) has been pouring his time, creativity and, I believe, cash: Arts on 9th. Wow, this is a nice space, directly opposite HCC. They have a photo gallery, a photo studio, a costume shop, and a theatre! They also have a little gift shop with some pretty handmade items in it, and a place where you can buy art supplies. I'm telling all my friends to GO see this exciting new space! The address is 1513 E 9th Ave, Tampa 33605 and their web site is http://www.artson9th.org/ I'm going back there this Thursday to see Bathhouse The Musical in the theatre. Their publicity boasts "New boys in towels" (yes, I know, I probably would have been satisfied with the old boys, but new boys they will be!). Hmm, I wonder what happened to the old boys gee I hope they didn't shrink or anything...
I had the pleasure of attending the "Theatre 620: Sweets and Shorts" fundraiser Monday night at the gorgeous new American Stage site on 3rd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. Over 100 people showed up for this Studio@620 event, drank and ate to the accompaniment of Paul Wilborn on piano and Eugenie Bondurant on vocals. I had a good talk with actor Eric Davis about his search for a permanent space for the freeFall Theatre Company, and I was happy to chat with St. Pete poet laureate and CL columnist Peter Meinke and his artist wife Jeanne. Serving drinks was American Stage jack-of-all-trades Andy Orrell, and moving graciously from guest to guest was Studio artistic director and co-founder Bob Devin Jones. After a half hour, we all moved in to the theater proper, where 12 acts presented among other things excerpts from Lane DeGregory's Pulitzer Prize-winning story "The Girl in the Window," presented in Living Newspaper style, and scenes from Bill Maxwell and Beverly Coyle's play Parallel Lives and Mark Medoff's The Same Life Over. Artistic director Jones introduced the readings and dramatizations, and actors included Jones himself, Sharon Scott, Bonnie Agan, Robin O'Dell and Wilborn. Poet Enid Shomer read from her own work, and guitarist Nick White accompanied it all with lovely acoustic music. A quick overview of the audience reminded me of how much good Jones has brought to area arts with his Studio, and how willing the Bay area is to welcome new theaters. It was a delightful evening: and it suggests once again that Tampa/St.Pete has huge potential for growth in the arts.
The Tampa Bay area needs more playwrights. In the region of West Central Florida there are only 41 members of the Dramatists Guild the national playwrights' professional association and of those 41, fewer than ten were sufficiently interested to come to Guild meetings in St. Pete last March, April and May. Where are the playwrights? Biding their time?
Maybe Gorilla Theatre can help. For the ninth year, this organization is hosting the Young Dramatists' Project, a festival devoted to the best writing of local high school and middle school students. I attended last Sunday not to review the show, but to discover what our youngest playwrights might have to offer the area. Is there imaginative, innovative work coming from these teens? Might they eventually infuse the region with new talent?
Yes and yes. The first of the five plays that made it to the Gorilla stage this year uses instant messaging to tell us the story of a doomed love affair. Amanda Buck's Sweet Nothings is about XXX2593 (Jamaica Reddick) and YYY4168 (Adom McRae), schoolmates who become sweethearts after she shows up as new girl at his high school. Buck has us watching on a large screen as the two lovers write each other over a period of months, and intersperses their writing with glimpses of their daily lives. Directed by David O'Hara, the play graphically demonstrates that even the most digital behavior can ingeniously be made theatrical. And even in the era of IM, love is still maddening.
Next on the lineup is Sam French's This One Night in the Warehouse, a Pinteresque mindgame which sees two men (Chris Jackson and Curtis Belz) thrown into a locked room containing a gun with one bullet.
I hadn't seen daylight since about 1 p.m., yesterday. From then on I was the backstage photographer for the International Academy of Design and Technology's annual student fashion show.
This year's fashion show was titled Imagine, at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa. I hardly saw the runway, instead I was in the back hallway, lined with rows of costumes, ranging from sea creatures, to bikini brides, and goth couture. At any moment, depending on which way I turned the atmosphere could be chill, frantic or anywhere in between.
See more photos after the jump:
Mike Daisey (right) has struck a nerve in regional theaters across the country with his monologue How Theater Failed America, now playing at Joe's Pub in Manhattan. Depending on your perspective, Failed is either: 1) a necessary corrective to an increasingly corporate theater system that fails to support individual artists; or 2) a self-centered diatribe that ignores the realities of running a professional not-for-profit theater company.
Todd Olson, the producing artistic director of American Stage in St. Petersburg, lands decidedly in the latter camp, and he told Daisey so in an email Daisey reproduced, and responded to, on his blog.
One theater blogger summed up the exchange this way: "Mike Daisey has been challenged to a cage match by Todd Olson, AD of the American Stage Theatre Company in Tampa FL [sic]. Olson says: balance my budget, wretched actor miscreant; Daisey says: bring it."
Well, yesterday came round two. Olson wrote back and Daisey printed that email, too, responding to it point by point.
The theatrical blogosphere is abuzz.