Make us your home page
Instagram

Meet performing arts critic Andrew Meacham, former obit writer

For a part of my life, I loved nothing more than waiting in the wings to go on stage. There I could only see my immediate surroundings, and I nurtured at least a steadily evolving vision of what I wanted to do.

I lost sleep because of rehearsals or performances. As head muleteer in Man of La Mancha, I sang Little Bird but also had to drag a dead man up a ladder for six weeks — then get up at 5:30 a.m. to go to my construction job.

I played Angelo in Measure for Measure, the Rev. Davidson in Rain, Preacher Haggler in Dark of the Moon and other morally compromised characters. I loved the challenge of finding the inner core that redeemed them in some way, or at least explained their actions.

I came to know a shifting array of actors and directors in theaters that have since changed shape or vanished. People came and went in my life, like coquinas turning over with each new wave. By my mid-20s, I had performed in more than two dozen plays and musicals.

Then life intervened.

Work and relationships made it impossible to do shows anymore. I missed performing, so I sang in the Tampa Oratorio Singers for two years and the Tampa Bay Master Chorale for another two. Plus I got season tickets to the Asolo Repertory Theatre and attended as much as I could at American Stage and Freefall theaters, the Palladium and the Straz.

In 2006, after a 25-year hiatus from acting, I played Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and received a best supporting actor Lary, Pinellas County's community theater awards. (Perhaps in deference to my age, the director at Island Community Players didn't make me throw a washing machine through the window.)

Now, in a twist I could not have conceived of two months ago, work brings me back to theater and music. Starting Monday, I will be the new performing arts critic for the Times.

I succeed Stephanie Hayes, the new arts and entertainment editor. Of course, this means I will be leaving my previous post as writer of the Times' Epilogue obituary features, a job I have held full time since 2009. (In one of those odd twists, Stephanie was the first to hold down that feature and also came up with its name.)

Writing these obituaries — more than 1,000 in all — has been the best experience of my career. People have invited me into their homes, where they shared scrapbooks and old letters and memories of recently departed loved ones. It is impossible to overstate the graciousness I have experienced from these families at the worst times of their lives, or my gratitude at being able to tell those stories.

I have been at the paper 10 years and have always preferred finding stories that could have gone unnoticed to the must-do's. Before that, I worked a ton of construction, edited a self-help magazine and wrote a nonfiction book about that experience. While covering neighborhoods as a freelancer in the early 2000s, I earned a master's degree in journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Way back when, I graduated from Eckerd College, where my father was a founding faculty member.

I do not move on from Epilogue lightly.

At the same time, we have a performing arts scene in the Tampa Bay area that is really hitting its stride. I will cover the hard news behind the Florida Orchestra as it uncorks a new era with incoming music director Michael Francis. We have opera, professional theater and dance companies, and we will continue to give them the same major league coverage as we extend to the Tampa Bay Rays or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I'll give you an idea of what to expect if you go to these shows and keep you posted on social media. I will look for stories in unexpected places, such as standup comedy or performance art.

The communication I want to establish is a two-way street. Let me know what you liked and what you didn't, either in the shows you saw or in my take on them.

The performing arts scene in this area is only getting richer. I intend to bring to its creators, and you, the kind of coverage you deserve.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Meet performing arts critic Andrew Meacham, former obit writer 05/27/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 11:11am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 22

    Events

    Arcade Fire: The wildly acclaimed indie rock outfit tour in support of their fifth album, Infinite Content. Presumably, the band will also play songs from their first few albums. Wolf Parade opens. 7 p.m., University of South Florida Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $35-$75. (813) 974-3004.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08:  Musician Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs onstage during The 24th Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Shrine Auditorium on December 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Radio.com)
  2. What the 10 terms Merriam-Webster just added to the dictionary say about our foodie culture

    Cooking

    Joining "troll" (as in, a rude person on the Internet, not a bridge-dwelling creature), "alt-right" and "dog whistle," 10 food-related words were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this week. That's out of 250 new terms, a pretty good ratio that signals the ongoing shift toward a more food-obsessed culture, one …

    IPA is one of the words recently added to the dictionary.
  3. St. Petersburg's newest hotel opens with craft beers, cocktails and Cozy Corners

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last spring, Ryan Tarrant applied for a job with the new Hyatt Place nearing completion in downtown St. Petersburg. Among the questions an interviewer asked:

    What does this hotel need to succeed?

    Hybar, a bar area with outdoor seating  that will feature craft drinks and Sunday brunch starting Oct. 1, is ready to open at the new Hyatt Place hotel at  25 2nd St. N in downtown St. Petersburg. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. A coast away from her roots, American Stage's Stephanie Gularte is soaking up Florida

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG

    The last clear day before the storm, Stephanie Gularte looked at Milo, her 8-year-old Boston terrier.

    "You ready for action, bud?"

    Stephanie Gularte, who arrived in the Tampa Bay area 2 ? years ago to become producing artistic director of American Stage, strolls along Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg with Milo, her 
8-year-old Boston terrier.
  5. Tampa Bay theaters usher in a broadened vision, new works in 2017-18

    Stage

    By Andrew Meacham Times Performing Arts Critic

    The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa will serve up the musical Waitress in April 2018.