A new theater troupe has arrived on the Pasco County scene, the 5-year-old Hat Trick Theatre Productions company, which has established residency at the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center in Hudson.
The company's first production at the center opens tonight: the comedy A Completely Inaccurate Chronology of Violence in Entertainment, which continues weekends through Jan. 30.
The play, written and performed by Tampa actor-writers April Bender, Steve Fisher, Lani McGettigan and Joe Winskye, pokes fun at the pervasiveness of violence in popular entertainment, from the ancients to the present time.
"It appears to be starting out a very formal lecture on a serious subject," said Steve Mountan, manager of the Dempsey theater and the man responsible for bringing Hat Trick to Pasco County.
But when the main speaker is unexpectedly taken out, those remaining must do the best they can.
"It appears to be off-script, rehearsed mayhem," Mountan said.
Hat Trick was founded in September 2004 by a group of recent University of South Florida graduates. After a highly successful debut in the courtyard of a Seminole Heights restaurant, the troupe decided to incorporate and move into a Ybor City bungalow they dubbed Silver Meteor Gallery.
The players have had four full seasons of shows in the tiny theater (capacity, say, 50?), most of them earning high praise from area critics, never mind that it's just across the street from a sometimes noisy railroad track.
Mountan has brought several theater groups to the Dempsey center in the past couple of years and said he was familiar with Hat Trick and many of those involved in its productions.
"I have been sending out feelers to different groups," he said. "I gave (Hat Trick) a call and offered them our space on a partnership basis, instead of them having to rent," he said. That way, the theater and the troupe share in the success or failure of a production.
The Dempsey's resident theater group recently attracted more than 400 patrons to Mountan's own creation, The Infinite Typing Pool. Many were visiting the theater for the first time.
"We're hoping that Hat Trick brings some of its current patrons" from Tampa to augment Dempsey regulars and newcomers, he said.
Mountan is enthusiastic about the expanding performing arts scene in Pasco County and his theater's role in it.
"My dream is to go from group to group and bring even more versatility and variety to the area," he said. "We all do something a little bit different," Mountan said, citing area venues like Richey Suncoast Theatre, Stage West Community Playhouse and the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in particular.
Hat Trick has two more productions planned for this season: the musical The Fantasticks April 9-25, and the comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) July 1-18.
In between will be at least two shows by Mountan's Dempsey Stage Co., three musical programs by John Timpanelli's Tin Pan Alley productions and five 10-session courses in acting, directing and writing led by prominent people in Tampa Bay theater circles.