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All of Tampa Bay's a stage

Just a year shy of William Shakespeare's 450th birthday, the arts community in St. Petersburg is celebrating the great English playwright and poet's work with a panoply of performing and visual arts.

The monthlong Shakespeare Festival begins Friday and will include orchestral and vocal music, movies, an art exhibit and children's activities as well as dramatic performances. Todd Olson, artistic director of American Stage and a passionate fan of the playwright's work, welcomes the expansive program. "The more our local theater-going audience can learn about Shakespeare, the more they'll want to see Shakespeare.

"Whenever you can experience these works that were inspired by Shakespeare and the work that inspired it together in a small window of time, that's wonderful."

The Shakespeare Festival is a collaboration involving American Stage Theatre Company, the Dalí Museum, the Florida Orchestra, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg College School of Music, the Studio@620, Sunscreen Film Festival and the University of South Florida School of Music.

Hundreds of other cities around the world have Shakespeare festivals, but this is a first for St. Petersburg, and its moving force was the Florida Orchestra.

"There's so much great music inspired by Shakespeare we could spend a whole year playing it," says Angela Cassette, the orchestra's artistic operations director.

The festival opens with a Coffee Concert with Stuart Malina conducting six pieces based on Shakespeare's works. On Jan. 25, 26, and 27, the orchestra's Masterworks series presents Andrew Grams conducting Tchaikovsky's fantasy overtures to Hamlet, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. "Having January bookended with these performances," Cassette says, "we began thinking about expanding it. There are so many other arts organizations to work with" to create a festival.

The first collaboration that came about was with American Stage, which will perform scenes from the plays as preludes to each piece in the Masterworks concerts.

"Combining the music with acting and context will make it that much more powerful," Cassette says.

Olson, who directed many of American Stage's popular Shakespeare in the Park productions, will direct four actors in the preludes. "It's different to be doing these five- to seven-minute sections of the plays, but pairing them with this glorious music should be great."

The Dalí Museum is another major partner, Cassette says. Its "Much Ado About Shakespeare" exhibition will feature 31 drypoint engravings in which Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí exuberantly reimagined the Bard's works, as well as two bound books filled with Dalí's illustrations: Macbeth, with some of the artist's most elaborate illustrations, and As You Like It, with his drawings of costumes and sets for a 1949 stage production.

The museum will also host a concert by students from St. Petersburg College, a family day and five Shakespeare-inspired films. "I'm very excited about the films," Cassette says. "I loved reading Shakespeare's plays, but they're meant to be performed. Having American Stage and these films gives people a chance to see that, and they've chosen some really interesting films."

The orchestra will also team with the Studio@620 for "An Intimate Collaboration: All the World's a Stage.'' Cassette says, "We do a series with them every year, and it made so much sense to tie in Shakespeare."

Besides bringing a rich and varied serving of Shakespeare to Tampa Bay audiences, the festival is forging links among the groups involved in presenting it. "We're very interested in doing an annual festival of some sort," Cassette says, perhaps focusing on other artists or historical periods.

As Olson says, "Whenever the different arts organizations can hold hands like this, when the arts community can come together, especially in this economy, it's a positive thing."

Shakespeare Festival

Here are some highlights:

friday

The Florida Orchestra Coffee Concert: "Symphonic Shakespeare" Stuart Malina conducts a morning concert that features Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream and Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor, among other works. There's a preconcert talk at 10 a.m. with free coffee and doughnuts. Tickets: $24-$42 (students: $10). 11 a.m. at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 892-3337; floridaorchestra.org.

Saturday

Film Screening: Scotland, Pa.: Presented by the Dalí Museum and Sunscreen Film Festival, this modernized retelling of Macbeth is set in 1970s suburban Pennsylvania. 1 p.m. at the Dalí Museum, 1 Dalí Blvd., St. Petersburg. Free admission to film. (727) 823-3767; thedali.org

Jan. 10

Shakespeare in Song: Students from St. Petersburg College perform vocal selections based on Shakespeare's works at the Dalí Museum. Free admission to performance at 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 11 to April 28

"Much Ado About Shakespeare" exhibit: Two suites of Shakespearean comedies and tragedies consisting of 31 engravings will be on display at the Dalí Museum. Two editions of Dalí's illustrated books Macbeth and As You Like It accompany the sets. Museum admission is $21, seniors, military, police and firefighters $19, children 13-18, students $15, children 6-12 $7, children 5 and younger free. Admission after 5 p.m. on Thursdays is $10.

Jan. 12

Film Screening: Prospero's Books: An exiled magician finds an opportunity for revenge against his enemies muted when his daughter and the son of his chief enemy fall in love in this uniquely structured retelling of The Tempest. It will be shown at the Dalí Museum at 1 p.m. Free admission to film.

Jan. 19

Hamlet for Families: Part of the Dalí Museum's Family Day, there will be screenings, family activities and refreshments. First is The Lion King at 1 p.m., the Disney classic was inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet. Kids can participate in activities before and after the film. Free admission to children's activities at Dalí Museum .

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: At 3 p.m. is a screening of the film in which two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet stumble around unaware of their scripted lives and unable to deviate from them. Free admission to film at Dalí Museum .

Jan. 23

All the World's A Stage: Exploring Shakespeare's influence in a multi-faceted artistic collaboration. Vocalists from the USF School of Music's Chamber Singers highlight Shakespeare's words in song. Co-hosted by Studio@620 artistic director Bob Devin Jones, special guests from the Florida Orchestra and guest conductor Andrew Grams at the Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. $10. Seating is limited. Reservations suggested at (727) 895-6620; studio620.org. 7 p.m.

Jan. 25-27

Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet: The Florida Orchestra and American Stage Theatre Company combine efforts. The orchestra will play the fantasy overtures to Tchaikovsky's Hamlet, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, with actors presenting scenes. See it at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 and at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Tickets: $15, $35 and $45 (students $10).

All of Tampa Bay's a stage 01/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:30am]

    

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