The auto, housing and banking industries may be suffering in these parts, but by the look of things, live theater is booming.
The evidence is the success of existing theaters (for instance, Richey Suncoast Theatre reports that its current show, Hello, Dolly! is almost sold out for every performance) and the recent arrival and/or expansion of new venues.
The newest acting troupe to arrive in the area is the Now & Zen Public Theater put together by Tom Orr, a familiar name to long-timers in theater circles.
Orr and a couple of his theater friends ran Public Theater in the mid 1980s at the recreation center in Craig Park in Tarpon Springs, reportedly filling its 125 seats for almost every show.
The city and area merchants underwrote the venture, augmented by a novel (and very brave) idea: The audience could see the show for free and then, if they felt like, donate to the theater on the way out.
Orr isn't going that route this time, though he hopes to in the future. For now, tickets will be only $10, and the city is helping out, so there's not much financial risk on either side of the footlights.
Now & Zen's first production will be playwright Craig Alpaugh's comedy romance, Snatch a Falling Star, about a doping, drinking superstar, Ned Reardon, whose most devoted fan, Jan Fuqua, decides to save him from himself, with the help of her brother Jimmy. The siblings kidnap the star, whisk him off to the sister's apartment, and do their best to rehabilitate him, never mind Ned's protests.
The show plays weekends May 29 through June 7 at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center (call 727-942-5605).
Things look good elsewhere in bay area
Meanwhile, in New Port Richey, Deborah Louise Ortiz's new venture, Standing Ovations Dinner Theatre, has done even better than the former New Yorker had hoped when she launched her first show on April 10 at Spartan Manor, the audience interactive Godfather's Meshuggener Comedy Wedding.
She and business partner Sara Sebring had planned to do the show three times and then figure out their next move, but they quickly had to add three more presentations — and then three more after that (the remaining shows are at 7 p.m. today and July 10; and 4 p.m. June 28 and July 26).
The production has gone on the road, too, booking a show at 7 p.m. June 12 at the Event Factory on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa (call 727-858-8588 for those venues) and two at the Marriott Suites Clearwater Beach on Sand Key at 4 p.m. June 14 and 7 p.m. June 20 (call 727-967-9627 for tickets to that show).
A third relatively new venue is the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School on Hays Road in Hudson (or Spring Hill on some maps).
Various performers and special events have been presented at that state-of-the-art theater for some time, but the EDPAC Stage Co. recently announced a seven-show season from Aug. 14-April 18 with an impressive variety of subjects:
William Shakespeare's The Tempest (Aug. 14-23); The Guys (Sept. 11-13) about a New York firefighter who was off-duty when the Twin Towers were hit and has been asked to do eulogies for his station buddies who weren't; Macabaret (Oct. 23-31), a musical comedy Halloween show with such characters as Helena Handbasket, Phil Graves, Maud Lynn and musician Frank N. Steinway; Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol (Dec. 18-20), which is A Christmas Carol from Marley's point of view; The Fantasticks (Jan. 22-31), about feuding families; The Infinite Typing Pool (Feb. 26-March 7), by theater director Steve Mountan, which he describes as a screwball comedy; and a return engagement of the one-man show, Nobody Don't Like Yogi (April 9-18), a tale told by Yogi Berra.
Ticket prices vary, with most going for $9 to $19. (Call 727-857-2604 or online at www.ed-pac.org).
Add these offerings to the well-established venues in our area — Show Palace Dinner Theatre, Palace Grand, Pasco-Hernando Community College Performing Arts Center, Stage West Community Playhouse, Richey Suncoast Theatre, Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, Avenue Players at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Aripeka Elks Club, Colorama Studios, as well as top-notch performances by high school drama students and dance studios — and you can see just about any kind of live show you'd like without having to drive very far or spend a lot of money.