Make us your home page

Gorilla Theatre's journey moves forward with An Iliad

Actor Brendan Ragan stars as the Poet in Gorilla Theatre’s adaptation, An Iliad. 

Gorilla Theatre

Actor Brendan Ragan stars as the Poet in Gorilla Theatre’s adaptation, An Iliad. 

TAMPA — In a way, the Gorilla Theatre's journey has been as much an epic narrative as An Iliad, its show that debuted last weekend.

When the theatre's last living founder, Aubrey Hampton, passed away in 2011, the 23-year company's funding went with him. That year also saw the theatre leave its home in Drew Park and begin a search for new places to perform.

However, the challenges didn't halt productions. With the help of directors, including Bridget Bean and President Sandra Lynne Locher, they formed a new board of members and began raising funds independently.

The results tilted in their favor when they received their first grant of $8,000 from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. This and other efforts fueled their survival, enabling the theater to continue bringing plays to the Tampa Bay area, including An Iliad, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare.

"This play is a contemporary version of Homer's The Iliad," Locher said of the one-man show. "It's just as important today because the conflicts in it keep happening."

Brendan Ragan, 29, stars as the Poet, recounting the 10-year journey of gods, heroes and tragedy.

"In many ways, it is the most challenging thing I've ever attempted on stage," said Ragan, a Boulder, Colo., native. "What's great about the script is that, even if you aren't a Greek mythology enthusiast, you'll connect to the love, the jealousy, the heartbreak and the modern-day delivery. It's very relatable."

Ami Sallee, a member of the Artistic Committee at the Gorilla Theatre, is the director. She has a major presence in the Tampa Bay area theater scene, having worked at American Stage, Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Patel Conservatory and the University of Tampa.

This year, the theater chose storytelling as the theme of its productions, which epitomizes An Iliad. Though it opened at the Springs Theater in Sulphur Springs, it continues this weekend at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin. It returns to the Springs for performances Jan. 23-26, Jan. 30 and Feb. 2 (for tickets and information, go to

"The Ruskin Cultural Center is a big space with nice brick walls and no permanent seating, but it still has an intimate feel," Locher said of the venue.

Georgia Vahue, executive director of the Firehouse, retained the same excitement.

"It's the beginning of a partnership," she said of the Gorilla Theatre's new home. "They stand out for their longevity and the types of productions they select. They choose lesser-known ones, which are the gems.

"You can always be assured of quality with their plays, their directors and their actors."

The Springs Theater and the Firehouse Cultural Center are just two of the theater's new homes since their rebuild in 2011. Another, smaller space they call home is the Unity of Tampa church. A mutual friend introduced Locher to the church and, although they need larger venues, the church is just right for rehearsing, hosting intimate productions including the Creative Cafe and cabarets, and assisting in the theater's growth.

"Everyone was very receptive. Folks enjoyed the space," Locher said of the public's reaction to the new home. "Everything's new for Gorilla."

Not only does this professional theater keep the arts alive, but it's just as important to Tampa Bay area thespians as it is to audiences, since they pay their actors, designers and directors a livable salary.

Gorilla Theatre's goals are to keep bringing live theater to Tampa, strengthening its board, improving professional skills and raising funds.

"We were invisible for a while and wanted to make sure we would go forward," Locher said referring to the rebuild of the past two years. "We are still coming up with quality, although there may be more time in between shows."

After An Iliad, the group's next production will be Or, a 17th century comedy.

Arielle Waldman can be reached at

If you go

Gorilla Theatre's An Iliad, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare, adapted from Homer's The Iliad, continues today at the Firehouse Cultural Center, 101 First Ave. NE, Ruskin, through Jan. 19. It returns to the Springs Theatre, 8029 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa, Jan. 23-26 and Jan. 30-Feb. 2. Performances are 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Regular tickets are $10-$25. Call (813)-879-2914 or visit .

Gorilla Theatre's journey moves forward with An Iliad 01/15/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. From the food editor: 'MasterChef' winner Shaun O'Neale talks cooking at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival


    There are certain reliable signs that fall is on the way. Nothing in the weather department, of course, but other markers that usher in the celebratory final months of the year. One of those things is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which happens annually in Orlando, seemingly longer and more jam-packed …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. The only two people looking forward to solar eclipse more than us


    Ah, yes. How could you have forgotten about Navarre and Isabeau (aka "Ladyhawke.") The star-crossed lovers from the 1985 film Ladyhawke can only defeat their evil curse (is there any other kind?) inflicted upon them by the Bishop of Aquila if they face him together "on a day without a night and a night without a …

  3. What is poke? Here's how to make the Hawaiian dish at home


    In Hawaiian, "poke" simply means "to cut."

    Tuna Poke Bowl: For a classic poke bowl, try this recipe with ahi (yellowfin) and only a few other ingredients.
  4. Taste test: shelf-stable milks for your hurricane kit

    Taste Test

    It was 25 years ago this week that Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. For those of us familiar with the damage, hurricane preparedness is always a priority. With that in mind, our tasters wanted to sample some of the staples for stocking a hurricane kit. We settled on milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated, …

  5. MOSI, SPC, libraries offer safe solar eclipse viewing Monday


    If you couldn't score some of the hard-to-find eyewear that will let you watch Monday's solar eclipse, have no fear, there are safe viewing choices across the Tampa Bay area.

    Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21

(Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)