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What's on stage this week: 'The Year of Magical Thinking,' Florida Orchestra milestone concert, John Cleese

By Andrew Meacham
Brian Moorhead and Mark Sforzini will perform Premium Blend, a composition for clarinet and bassoon written by Sforzini, at ClarinetFest 2017 in Orlando. Times files.

STAGEWORKS:

MINING GRIEF FOR HEALING

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s no-frills memoir of loss and recovery, opens at Stageworks Theatre this weekend. The essayist and screenwriter adapted the one-woman stage play herself. Didion wrote the piece while mourning the loss of her husband, fellow novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, and a daughter, Quintana, within two years.

"It’s like running a marathon by yourself," said Vickie Daignault, who acknowledged doubts about taking on the role at first. Neither she nor director Karla Hartley wanted a 90-minute monologue.

"I think the first challenge was making it theatrical," she said. "Making it live in a theatrical reality. The tendency is always to kind of drop back into that narrative, literary-lecture sort of space. So we really had to fight against that. The next challenge is that it really is about some of the deepest, wrenching emotions that any of us go through." Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 19. 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. $30-$35. Preview 8 p.m. Thursday, $15. (813) 374-2416. For showtimes, see stageworkstheatre.org.

LIFE BEGINS AT 50:

ORCHESTRA MILESTONE, CONCERT

The Florida Orchestra turns 50 Thursday. Mini cupcakes in the lobby before this weekend’s concert, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, mark another note in a season-long celebration, this time to observe the anniversary of the orchestra’s articles of incorporation, signed Nov. 2, 1967.

The composer considered the symphony among his best work, with its instantly recognizable second movement, a pulsating, rhythmic line that splits into two separate melodies. This Allegretto commanded its own encores from its debut in 1813.

The concert features Alain Lefevre playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (the rarely performed unedited version), Bartok’s Dance Suite and the second of five winners of the orchestra’s Florida Fanfare Project. Running on Rooftops was inspired by Batman and Spider-Man, childhood superheroes to Florida Atlantic University composer-in-residence Kevin Wilt. Wilt’s other works have been recorded by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. 8 p.m. Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337. floridaorchestra.org.

NOT-DEAD PRINCE: JOHN CLEESE

After more than 40 years, it seems safe to say that Monty Python’s comedy will long outlast its original members. If you’ve already seen their masterpiece, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, hearing that it’s getting another screening might move you or it might not. But have you ever watched the movie with John Cleese (right)? That is the proposition.

The founding member of the British troupe that changed comedy will be on hand to take questions after the show. "Only absurd and/or ridiculous questions are requested, please," the comic has advised. 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $55 and up. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

Read an interview at bit.ly/cleesetbt.

LOCAL TALENT:

TAMPA BAY SYMPHONY

The Tampa Bay Symphony only puts on three concerts a year, each of which require months of work. Led by Mark Sforzini, left, the St. Petersburg Opera’s artistic director and a former longtime principal bassoon with the Florida Orchestra, the symphony aims to become the "bay area’s finest community orchestra," and may already be there. This fall concert, "Black Forest Cake," features Johann Strauss Jr.’s Fruhlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring Waltz); Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss (Pamela Armstrong, soprano); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. Concerts start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, St. Petersburg College, Clearwater campus, arts auditorium, 2465 Drew St.; 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Straz Center. $20. (727) 827-8087. tampabaysymphony.org.

OPERA TAMPA: FREE PARK CONCERT

Bring a picnic lunch to Curtis Hixon Park on Sunday to hear singers performing Broadway favorites and operatic gems. Opera Tampa’s Straz Live! in the Park returns from 3 to 5 p.m. (activities start at 1:30 p.m.). Free. Tables available for $125. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.