Twyla Tharp has had kind of a rocky time on Broadway lately, trying to come up with a show to match the success of her Billy Joel dance musical, Movin' Out. Her Bob Dylan musical, The Times They Are A-Changin', was an outright flop in 2006. Come Fly Away, her revue of Frank Sinatra songs, didn't do much better, closing this month after less than six months on Broadway, though a tour is planned.
Despite the recent missteps, Tharp is still one of the most compelling personalities of her generation (born in 1941), not only a trail-blazing choreographer but a vivid writer and insightful commentator on arts and culture. Her 1992 autobiography, Push Comes to Shove, is a great slice of Americana. She has also written a pair of books on creativity, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life and The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together.
Tharp is an entertaining speaker, and she gives the keynote address of the fall symposium of the University of South Florida Foundation's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy program Friday at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa. Concurrent sessions on "The Business of the Arts" and a panel discussion on "A Personal Path to Philanthropy" will run from 10 to 11 a.m., and the luncheon, with Tharp's speech, begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $100, a portion of which goes to support scholarship programs. (813) 974-6960; usf.edu/wlp.
• Supernal Temptations, a program of works by University of Tampa composer in residence David Isele, will be performed by UT faculty musicians Grigorios Zamparas, Mauricio Venturini, Beth Waligorski, Barbara Prescott, Libor Ondras, Hein Jung and Aric Brian at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Plant Hall. Free. (813) 253-6211; ut.edu.
• Composer Paul Moravec's Shakespeare-inspired Tempest Fantasy, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for music, will be played by the Sarasota Piano Quartet, featuring principal clarinet Bharat Chandra. Moravec will be at the concert at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Holley Hall in Sarasota. He collaborated with Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout on The Letter, an opera based on the 1927 play by W. Somerset Maugham that was premiered in 2009 by the Santa Fe Opera. Thursday's program will also feature other ensembles of the Sarasota Orchestra in Plog's Four Sketches for brass quintet and Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 18, No. 6. $24, $30. (941) 953-3434; sarasotaorchestra.org.
• Mahaffey Theater has its annual reception to offer a sneak peek of its 2010-11 season Thursday evening. There will be food and beverages and assorted events from 6 to 8 p.m. at the St. Petersburg venue. The season opens with Cirque Shanghai on Oct. 15-16.
• Ann Morrison is a consummate woman of the theater, most recently seen in Driving Miss Daisy at American Stage. She will perform While Sitting in a Faerie Glen Oct. 3-4 at the St. Petersburg theater. Morrison describes it as "a storytelling theater piece inspired while sitting in an actual faerie glen in the Isle of Skye in Scotland.'' $15. (727) 823-7529; americanstage.org.
• The Florida Orchestra's program to celebrate the opening of the new Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg has gotten more surreal. The orchestra recently announced that HK Gruber, Austrian composer and performer, will be the "chansonnier'' (defined as "a performer of satirical songs, monologues and skits'') for his work Frankenstein!! A Pan-Demonium for Chansonnier & Ensemble on Jan. 14-16.
• For high school students who want to pursue a life in the arts, choosing the right college is an important decision. For example, there are big differences between conservatories like Juilliard and Carnegie Mellon, and universities with performing arts schools or departments. An excellent source of information is the National Association for College Admission Counseling Performing and Visual Arts College Fair. This fall, NACAC holds such fairs in 18 locations around the country, including Tampa on Oct. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the University of South Florida Marshall Student Center Ballroom. The fair is free. Information: nationalcollegefairs.org.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at tampabay.com/blogs/critics.