Saturday, April 21, 2018
Stage

Meet our new performing arts critic, Stephanie Hayes

The summer before high school, I was looking for something to do beside watch The Price is Right until my brain broke. You can only withstand so much Plinko.

I joined a summer theater program in which everyone got cast. While some kids were supremely skilled, most of us were plebes who thought projection was the overhead screen in algebra. I (plebe) stood in the back of the Bye Bye Birdie chorus, terrified, dead eyes, arms like a stone crab, murmuring:

"We love you Conrad. Oh, yes, we do. We love you Conrad, and we'll be true."

No matter how tragic I was, something transformative happened that summer. The stage, the audience, the lights, the tension of entertainment unfolding, unedited, all in real time.

I was hooked for life.

I take that same sense of wonder (and humor) into my new role as Tampa Bay Times performing arts critic.

Former critic John Fleming, a legend in the Tampa Bay arts community, leaves a vast stage in his retirement. While I will channel the grace and authority of his work, my job is not to be John. And it's not to make you enjoy all the same things I do. Some people really like Plinko.

My job is to use my own voice to give you context, help you navigate the choices that lead you far from your beige cubicle, from your messy kitchen and your money woes to the art that helps you feel whole.

And it's to make you smarter about those choices, about what you're seeing and hearing, about the people on stage in front of you. I'll write about costumers and conductors, divas and drag queens, prop managers and rabid fans, Frank-N-Furters and mezzo-sopranos.

I love social media and staying connected. Talk to me. Tell me your ideas. Say hello in the shoe aisle at Target, where I spend most weekends. The next time NBC puts on a 26-act musical starring an American Idol, live-tweet with me. I'll bring the wine.

Some journalism credentials: I'm a graduate of the University of South Florida. I've been at this paper 11 years, covering everything from small town politics to big city crime to higher education. I originated the Times obituary feature, Epilogue. I also write for Deal Divas, the Times' fashion blog, and cover Tampa Bay Fashion Week.

Some stage nerd credentials: I learned not to be quite so terrible, and through high school and after in community theater, landed roles in productions of Grease, Sweet Charity, Pippin, Godspell, The Women and Little Shop of Horrors (twice).

And I did a bit of competition playwriting. One play I wrote, a one-act about a dreary single woman whose entire family drops in for the weekend, went to the Florida State Thespian competition.

I was so nervous before the panel of judges. A man sat in the middle, kind, wise, measured, great hair. It was Times performing arts critic John Fleming.

He gave me good marks back then. I plan to earn the same from you.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @stephhayes.

Comments
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

ST. PETERSBURG — In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage. The theme for the 2018-2019 season, "A Brighter Tomorrow," color...
Published: 04/19/18
Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

HEAD WAITRESS: DESI OAKLEYThe blue collar mother who drives the plot of Waitress never thought she could win a pie-making contest, let alone start a business."She doesn’t even have the capacity to understand that she could do this," said Desi Oakley,...
Published: 04/18/18
American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

ST. PETERSBURG ­— Think early evening, daylight saving version. The earth turning away, light fading in Demens Landing Park — everywhere except the stage, which is trying its best to resurrect midday. "It looks like New York City at nigh...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

BROOKSVILLE — How about a story about two knights who gain their knighthood, lose it, then gain it back, only to lose it again?That was the concept Kyle Marra pitched nearly three years ago to Randi Olsen, founder and creative director for the Live O...
Published: 04/17/18
Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

TAMPA — Tampa made its cigars with indispensable help from Cuban immigrants. Today, 22 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, as defined by the U.S. Census. The Tampa Bay area has increasingly and proudly defined itself as a thriving perfor...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

The murder mystery/thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is loaded with potential. Playwright Peter Colley’s spooky, sometimes creepy, script has lots of surprises, scary moments and a few jokes to break the tension.And the production at Stage West C...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Review: ‘Menopause the Musical’ brings the heat to Show Palace in Hudson

For years, Show Palace Dinner Theatre patrons have begged owners Vicki and Tommy Marasciullo to bring Menopause the Musical to their Hudson venue. To be sure, the longtime showbiz couple wanted to, and the 400+ sold-out crowd opening night, followed ...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

NEW PORT RICHEY — A collaborative agreement between CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) and local entertainer Jimmy Ferraro will bring Jimmy Ferraro’s Dessert Theatre, a series of monthly variety shows, to the CARES Elfers Center stage, 4...
Published: 04/16/18
New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

TAMPA — Last year’s lavish 100th birthday party for composer and conductor Anton Coppola might have seemed like the capstone of a long career in opera. Turns out that Opera Tampa’s co-founder was not finished. The maestro’s latest opera, Lady Swanwhi...
Published: 04/14/18