TAMPA — The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe will be the last production by Gorilla Theatre in its home of 18 years in the Drew Park neighborhood. "Our vision is for the theater is to retain the best of it and reinvent Gorilla in a new, larger, more central space," board president Sandra Lynne Locher said in a statement.
Gorilla's future has been in limbo since its co-founder and financial angel, Aubrey Hampton, died in May. Hampton's wife and partner in the founding of the theater, Susan Hussey, died in 2009. In August, a reorganized board announced that the theater would be operating on a reduced basis through the end of the year with transitional funding from Hampton's cosmetics company, Aubrey Organics, and then would be on its own in 2012. Bridget Bean, managing director since 2005, is stepping down but remains on the board.
With just 50 seats since its capacity was reduced to meet fire code regulations several years ago, Gorilla's rented venue was increasingly impractical, and Drew Park has always been off the beaten track. Still, the company filled a valuable niche in bay area theater, producing sophisticated works such as the musicals Side Show and The Last Five Years and a pair of Wallace Shawn plays, The Designated Mourner and The Fever.
Gorilla intends to stage the regional premiere of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez in a different venue in March.
John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic