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Stage Planner: Florida Orchestra's Songs of the Sea; Veterans Day benefit from Heather Theatre


Some of the Florida Orchestra's most interesting concerts have come about through inspiration, grouping a few pieces together to form an image. A good example is the performance this weekend, Songs of the Sea: Britten, Elgar and Debussy.

"The orchestra can unite the bay in a very powerful way," said Michael Francis, the orchestra's music director, who lives in Hillsborough County. The concert runs the same weekend as the Blue Ocean Film Festival, which showcases environmental documentaries, Francis noted.

"But also just the fact that we are by the sea, to celebrate the fact that Tampa Bay is so surrounded by water," he said.

Pieces include Four Sea Interludes by Benjamin Britten, Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar and La Mer by Claude Debussy. Francis conducted the debut last year of a fourth composition, The Work at Hand by Jake Heggie.

Based on a poem about cancer by the late Laura Morefield, the Heggie piece is not literally about the ocean.

"It's about a sort of a defiance, about the bravery of the human spirit," Francis said. "And it's written for the principal cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Anne Martindale Williams, and Jamie Barton, who is a wonderful mezzo-soprano."

Both Williams and Barton, right, will perform in this weekend's concert. Francis, who conducted the premiere in Pittsburgh, will take the baton for this one. Concerts start at 8 p.m. Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First Street S, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337.

Besides the concert, the orchestra is hosting one of two "Inside the Music" workshops around Debussy's La Mer. If you have ever attended one of Francis' pre-concert talks, you'll love the workshop. Francis spends 45 minutes talking about the piece, with selected musical examples. After a break, the orchestra returns and plays the whole piece. The workshop starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of South Florida School of Music. Pay what you can at the door.


Heather Theatre opens its season with a benefit, running this weekend only. On the Bench, a play by Holly Swayne and Jason Sutton of Heather Theatre, starts out with Anna, an upper middle-class young woman who has quit her job. She meets Henry, a homeless veteran, and the two bond.

That puts Anna at odds with her partner, Julia, who is not enamored with what she hears.

"Henry is an imposing figure," said Swayne, who also plays Anna. "At first glance, he is a large African-American male dressed in rags. The typical biases want to lead people to avoid him. You find he is an articulate, sensitive man with experiences you don't think about, it never crossed your mind."

Directed by Sutton, On the Bench examines the ways in which "people form opinions and their world views based on their own contexts, their own experience," Swayne said. "That doesn't mean they are bad people, but this is how they were raised."

All proceeds go to the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, which helps military families. The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $30. (813) 229-7827.


Two couples, each named Jones, meet as neighbors in a small Western town. They test each other out, fumble through awkward moments, and eventually reveal a secret that unites them. Tampa Repertory Theatre opens its season this weekend with The Realistic Joneses. Playwright Will Eno is known for his skill at approaching serious topics in a casual way and capturing the poetry in ordinary language. The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. It runs through Nov. 20 at Hillsborough Community College's Studio Theatre, at the corner of E Palm Avenue and N 14th Street, Tampa. $25; $20 seniors, students and military. A preview starts at 8 p.m. Thursday and costs $15.

Stage Planner: Florida Orchestra's Songs of the Sea; Veterans Day benefit from Heather Theatre 11/09/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 8:48pm]
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