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Just one problem with next season at Stage West

My heart gave a little flutter when I received the December edition of Hernando Culture and Calendar, a newsletter published by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.

There on the front page was the announcement of Stage West's 30th anniversary theatrical season, and what a season it would be: P.G. Wodehouse's delightful British drawing-room comedy The Code of the Woosters, with the wise and discreet servant Jeeves and his dim-bulb master, Bertie Wooster; the critically acclaimed Christmas fable of despair and redemption, The Seafarer; Alan Ayckbourn's marvelous trilogy The Norman Conquests (all three episodes, yet); the oddball comedy Dead Man's Cell Phone; the award-winning off-Broadway musical The Spitfire Grill; and, finally, the hilarious Thornton Wilder comedy, The Skin of Our Teeth.

All sorts of adjectives tumbled through my brain: fresh, new, imaginative, daring. Community theater sometimes plays it safe, repeating familiar plays and musicals and choosing middle-of-the-road playwrights (Ray Cooney, Neil Simon), and here we'd have Wilder, Ayckbourn and Wodehouse in one season.

Perhaps it was because of Stage West's success with the first play in Ayckbourn's trilogy, Table Manners, that gave the play-reading committee its inspiration, I thought. That show picked up two HAMI awards in 2005-06 and was a real crowd-pleaser. I adored it and only wished I could see the following two stories in the trilogy.

And now I would be able to.

Except something didn't seem right about the newsletter's article.

First of all, there was only one musical in the Main Stage season, and Stage West Community Playhouse always has two, with at least one of them being a reliable old standard that will fill the seats.

Spitfire Grill could do well, but would it do enough box office to underwrite the whole season, as the musicals sometimes must do?

And the show dates seemed weird. The first would open Nov. 28 and play through Jan. 4. The season would go straight through the summer (the musical from July 9 to Aug. 9) and consist of eight productions.

I've been covering Stage West for nearly two decades, and the theater's first regular season show always comes in September and the last in May; the shows run for three weekends, not four or six weeks; and the main stage season has only five shows.

The "30th anniversary" part was iffy, too, since some folks contend the theater was founded in 1979, while others point out it was officially chartered in 1980.

The mystery deepened when I retrieved my November edition of the Fine Arts Council's newsletter and read that Stage West had produced the ghostly comedy Blithe Spirit in October.

I recalled seeing Blithe Spirit, but I could have sworn it was at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, not at Stage West, and it was a couple of years ago.

I checked my date book, and I did see a ghost story at Stage West in October, but it was a chilling drama, The Uninvited, not the lighthearted Noel Coward comedy.

I felt like Ingrid Bergman's character in Gaslight; was I going crazy — or worse?

I called and left messages at the Fine Arts Council's office to see what was going on, but I didn't hear back from anyone.

So I called Terri Marwood, president of the board of directors at Stage West in Spring Hill.

"We have a tentative schedule, but it's not that one," she said. She knew all the shows in the newsletter's "Stage West" list and likes them, but she sounds even happier and more excited about her own theater's lineup.

As soon as the dates and performance rights are nailed down, Marwood will let me know, and I'll let Times readers know.

But what about that other list of shows?

The mystery was solved when I went on the Internet and typed in Stage West and Spitfire Grill.

Up popped Stage West: a professional, Equity theater in Fort Worth, Texas, that was founded in 1979 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

And, yes, its season is just what was listed in the Hernando County Fine Arts Council's newsletter.

Oops.

On the other hand, if you're in Fort Worth next year, you know you can pick up a good show while you're there.

Just one problem with next season at Stage West 12/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 11:43am]
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