With bricks and ardor, patrons say goodbye to old American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG

Maggie Carr lingered in her familiar red cushioned seat, taking in the view one more time.

"I've had these seats for many, many years," she said, sitting in the darkened theater. "It's a perfect view. You can see everything here."

Or used to. American Stage's run at 211 Third St. S downtown is complete, and there's a certain sadness for performers and patrons alike.

"This was my laboratory that I cut my teeth on right out of college, so I'll always have fond memories of this place," said T. Scott Wooten, who authored, with Todd Olson, the adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the theater's last production in this space.

The old place has earned its scars and shows them: doorways bricked up to complete walls, hanging insulation, a little less paint here and there among its 142 seats. The building was used as an automotive accessories store in the late 1920s, later a cigar warehouse and an art gallery.

American Stage, founded in 1977, first leased the place in 1984, opening with What I Did Last Summer.

Now its marquee on the corner of Third Street faces a cantina, a parking garage and an unrented space next to Publix.

American Stage is trying to share with its supporters parts of the theater that cannot follow to the brand-new 184-seat venue at 163 Third St. N. Patrons who had purchased the inscribed bricks that line the courtyard were recently invited to a "Brick Lunch" and allowed to take them as mementos.

Things should be better, at least newer and more modern, when the company raises house lights a few blocks away, but there is a sentimentality for the old space.

"So now we lose our magic place, and then we go to another building," Olson said. "It's just a building to us, although it's been wonderfully, I think, I hope, inspired by this place. And so now we sort of find our new magic place, and we start to fill that building full of the same kind of memories."

With bricks and ardor, patrons say goodbye to old American Stage 05/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 5:20pm]

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