Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Stage

Jobsite Theater announces new season, aiming for humor and substance

TAMPA — Jobsite Theater has announced its lineup for the 2016-2017 season, with dramas not often seen and comedies the theater's leadership believes cut below the surface.

The news answers a question posed in February, when Jobsite postponed its scheduled unveiling due to a crisis of artistic conscience. On the theater's website, producing artistic director David Jenkins said he could not stomach the idea of putting on "trite fluff, safe but tasteless garbage that may be easy to sell tickets to, but that leaves me feeling empty." (Read the Times story about the theater's struggle at tbtim.es/xb2.)

The picture has brightened since Jenkins' outpouring, covered in the Times, and the theater has revised its lineup. Financial worries that factored into the original schedule have also eased somewhat, and Jobsite is now more than one-third of the way toward reaching its fundraising goals for the fiscal year, Jenkins said.

"We're definitely still impacted in some way by economic things," he said. "But at the same time, I'm comfortable now that the season hopefully as presented will be of general appeal, and that it honors our mission."

That mission stresses work aimed at younger audiences, said Jenkins, 42, a priority that doesn't always fill seats. His audiences know that and wouldn't have it any other way, sending him supportive emails.

"A lot of people wrote in and said, 'We don't want you to change what you are doing; we go to you for those plays that we can't see anywhere else,' " Jenkins said.

The adjusted 2016-2017 season at Jobsite opens with The Underpants, a farce by comedian Steve Martin (Sept. 9-Oct. 2). The show "pokes at issues; it's not all light fluff," Jenkins said.

Another interesting choice: Lizzie by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt (Oct. 14-Nov. 6) is a rock musical about Lizzie Borden. While Jobsite plays are usually held in the Shimberg Playhouse, this one will run in the adjacent, larger Jaeb Theater.

There follows William Shakespeare's As You Like It, set in present-day Tampa (Jan. 13-Feb. 5); A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh, a dark comedy about an Irish mortician (March 17-April 9); and Gloucester Blue by Israel Horovitz, about the relationships between house painters in a fishing village and a couple who are renovating the home (May 19, 2017-June 11, 2017). Horovitz, an internationally celebrated playwright and one of the world's most prolific, visited Jobsite for the January production of his Holocaust-themed Lebensraum and in early 2015 for a staged reading of his play Sins of the Mother.

The season closes with Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill (July 14-Aug. 6), which satirizes Victorian society and British colonialism in Africa.

The tweaked lineup also solves another problem: Up until a few months ago, Jenkins had hoped to produce Full, a musical by local playwright Katie Berger with music by Berger and Alan Blake Conley. Jobsite hosted a reading in 2015 for the show that touches on eating disorders and fighting inner demons.

Concerns about raising the money for a musical forced Jobsite to scratch it from next season's card. Full has since been accepted to the New York International Fringe Festival, Jenkins said, and he looks forward to producing it in the 2017-2018 season.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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