After covering theater for nearly 40 years, I've come to believe that theater people have the biggest, warmest, most generous hearts in the world.
Time after time, I've seen them donate the only thing they have — their talent and training — to help someone else.
It's happening again on May 13, when the actors, crew and owners of the Show Palace Dinner Theatre give up a rare night off to perform a shortened version of the musical Sugar Babies to collect groceries for a home for abused women and children in Hernando County, a homeless shelter in Pasco County and Gulf Family Services in Pinellas County.
Equally heart-warming (and perhaps astonishing), is that the idea for the fundraiser came from three diverse houses of worship: the Islamic Center of New Port Richey, St. James the Apostle Catholic Church and the Jewish Community Center of West Pasco/Beth Tefillah. Their representatives got together and went to Nick and Sal Sessa at the Show Palace to ask if they could "help meet the needs of families who are hungry, the elderly, single parents with children, abused families and the homeless," according to a news release from the religious groups.
Without a moment's hesitation, the Sessas, the actors and the staff eagerly said, "Yes!"
They named the show "Food from the Heart," because they'll be singing and dancing their hearts out to literally bring home the groceries — but for others, not themselves.
Nick Sessa called the licensing agents for Sugar Babies and got permission to do a 90-minute version of the show (the whole show is almost three hours long) without having to pay more costly performing fees. This means that 100 percent of the donations of food and/or money will go directly to those in need.
"This is especially important in these economic times," Sessa said.
Admission is a bag of nonperishable, nonbreakable groceries — canned goods, cereal, rice, instant potatoes, powdered milk, biscuit mix, and the like — worth at least $10 (I suspect most people will donate much, much more).
The Sessas will deliver the food to all three facilities at no cost.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. The bar will be open, and the Sessas are providing coffee and cake for everyone who comes. Call (727) 847-8848 or (352) 666-3148 for tickets, and the Show Palace will mail them to you, reserved seating.
Some of the people who go will be seeing the show for the second time, and some will be seeing it for the first time, mainly because of the bargain admission.
I think it would be a great idea if everyone who has already seen Sugar Babies or plans to go see it later in the run demonstrate their gratitude to the generous, selfless actors, crew, staff and owners by dropping off a $10 bag of groceries to be added to those who see the benefit on May 13.
Just put a few extra cans and boxes in your grocery basket during the next two weeks and take them to the Show Palace before the curtain goes up for "Food from the Heart."
Stage West unveils new season of shows
Stage West Community Playhouse has announced its Main Stage and Forum shows for 2008-09, and it's a mix of familiar hits and first-timers to this area.
The two big musicals are 1776, the surprisingly lively story of the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, and The King and I, the big Rodgers and Hammerstein costume melodrama set in 19th-century Siam.
The Main Stage also offers three comedies: Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which needs no explanation; the Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman classic, The Man Who Came to Dinner, about a famous writer who breaks his leg on his hosts' front steps and then takes over the household as he recuperates for six weeks; and a first-timer, Epic Proportions, a spoof of the filming of one of those 1930s sandal-and-sand Biblical epics, co-written by David Crane, the creator and writer of Friends, Cheers and Frasier.
The Forum's shows include the spooky The Uninvited, where an unsuspecting brother and sister buy a seaside English house that turns out to be filled with moans, cold spots and terror; the comedy The Foreigner, about a painfully shy man who, to avoid conversations with a group of strangers at a fishing lodge, pretends not to know English and thus hears all the gossip; and the warm drama Driving Miss Daisy, about an aging Jewish lady whose son hires her a black chauffeur in 1960s Georgia during of the civil rights movement.
If you buy season tickets before June 15, you get all eight shows for $80 (that's $60 for Main Stage and $20 for Forum). After that, the price goes up to $100 ($75 Main Stage, $25 Forum).
Call (352) 683-5113.