TAMPA — If everything goes according to plan, a seldom-used amphitheater along the downtown banks of the Hillsborough River will come to life Saturday with an acclaimed playwright's skewed take on Shakespeare.
Alley Cat Players plans to stage Mac Wellman's Anything's Dream in the amphitheater at Kiley Gardens, just south of Curtis Hixon Park.
The play, which director Jo Averill-Snell calls a "riff" on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, runs only about a half-hour and features two actors.
"You'll have the sounds of the Hillsborough River and trees from the University of Tampa behind you," Averill-Snell said. "The setting will be perfect."
But there could be a big snag in the theater company's plans.
Any "organized event" in a city park requires a permit, said Tampa Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Linda Carlo.
That was news to Averill-Snell. She said a parks official told her three years ago that her company didn't need permits if it didn't use sets and lighting. In that case, she said she was told, the performers were "just like any other people in the park."
Based on that information, Alley Cat Players, the nonprofit company that Averill-Snell co-founded 10 years ago, has produced several performances in city parks, all without permits and all without objection from the city.
As of press time Wednesday, she planned to go ahead with the free performance at 8 Saturday. Updates will be posted on the company's website, alleycatplayers.org.
The permit issue wasn't the first problem the theater group encountered while trying to stage the production.
The free performance was to take to the stage at 11 p.m., but officials from Tampa's Parks and Recreation Department said the park is closed at that hour. Even though that came as surprise to the people from Alley Cat Players, they moved the performance to 8 p.m., so it will be over by the 10 p.m. closing time listed on the department's website.
"I don't even know what their definition of 'closed' is," said Averill-Snell, who has been rehearsing with her cast (Dahlia Legault and Nicole Jeannine Smith) at the amphitheater and visiting after 11 p.m. to get a feel for the ambience. "There's no fence. There are lights, and there are people around."
Despite the scheduling snags, Averill-Snell hopes the play will go on as planned. Local theater audiences should be familiar with Wellman, an Obie Award-winning playwright from New York City. Several local companies have produced his work, including Bad Penny, which was staged on and around the Hillsborough River in Sulphur Springs Park in the early 1990s.
Wellman also wrote a surrealistic history of Ybor City called Why the Y (in Ybor)? that was produced at the Italian Club in the mid '90s.
"I think he has a soft spot for Tampa," Averill-Snell said. "When we approached him about getting the rights to do this play, he said we could do it for free."
The play combines Wellman's take on the Shakespeare play with his impressions of several paintings. Audience members who have iPhones will get to look at the paintings on their phones during the performances. Others will get printed copies of the paintings.
Marty Clear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The Alley Cat Players will perform Anything's Dream at 8 p.m. Saturday in the amphitheater at Kiley Gardens. An earlier story gave the wrong time.