As much as I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, I think he was all wet when he said, late in life, "There are no second acts in American lives."
Of course there are. And those of us who spend a lot of time in the theater know that although the first act of any show can be wonderfully exciting and interesting, it is merely a set-up for the good stuff that comes later.
I say this as I end one act of my life and wait to see what the next one brings (and, like Shakespeare, I think there can be five acts, maybe more).
Yes, I am one of the St. Petersburg Times employees who accepted the enhanced retirement package announced a couple of months ago. As of Aug. 31, I, along with many of my colleagues, will be officially retired.
I leave just eight days short of being here for 22 years. It was 1986 when I moved from a small daily newspaper in east Texas to join the great big St. Pete Times. I held a variety of jobs — copy editor, reporter, editorial writer — before I landed in the butter bucket, also known as arts and entertainment editor of the Pasco Times, where I've covered theater and the arts in Pasco and Hernando counties for 15 years.
I took a lot of ribbing from my colleagues downtown who wondered what "arts" I would be covering in Pasco: tractor pulls and mud-bogging contests? To be sure, the local arts pickings were slim when Pasco Editor Bill Stevens and former Times President and CEO Andy Barnes created this job (I like to think they had me in mind when they did it).
Since then, though, the area's arts scene has blossomed.
We now have a first-class Equity dinner theater, two popular community theaters in their own buildings, several performing arts centers with regular seasons, many visual art centers, thriving community orchestras, bands and choral groups, a plethora of outdoor festivals, opera study groups, world-class dance and theater studios, and a host of other performing and fine arts activities.
And I've done my best to make sure that everyone knows what's going on and where to go see it.
I'll miss doing that every day.
But, wait. Before anyone dons sackcloth and grabs for the ashes or, in some cases (perhaps a few actors, director, producers and restaurant owners) begins dancing a jig and hollering "Well, they finally canned the old witch," let me say that, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator, "I'll be back."
I'm taking off a couple of months for some R & R, including two significant high school class reunions and an extended road trip, and then, time and Times willing, I'll be back part time to cover theater, write columns, visit restaurants and do whatever I can in a limited number of hours to cover the arts and dining scene.
Someone else will be in charge of the listings and decide the stories to go into each week's Pasco Diversions section. For now, send those announcements to my editor, Bridget Grumet, at 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll get them to the right person.
Meanwhile, I'll see you at the theater — but, for now, I won't be scribbling in a notebook in the dark. I'll be a civilian.
Barbara L. Fredricksen can be reached at (727) 869-6262 or by e-mail at email@example.com.