Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Stage

Stage Planner: Freefall does 'Our Town,' Parsons Dance performance at the Straz

NOT MAYBERRY: FREEFALL DOES 'OUR TOWN'

Every day of the year, someone is performing Our Town somewhere in the world. Freefall Theatre starts its run of the Thornton Wilder classic this weekend with Bob Devin Jones in the lead role.

"Because it is such a seminal American play, it's a play that you do," said Eric Davis, Freefall's producing artistic director. "So it's on that list of the plays that we want to do but also that we must do, much like there are pieces of music that every orchestra must play."

That said, the company aims to make this show unlike the others.

It is a reunion of sorts. Freefall got its start in 2008, putting on The Wild Party at The [email protected], which Jones founded a dozen years ago as a performing space and gallery. In Our Town he plays the Stage Manager, who narrates the action in the self-aware setting of a theater, surely a groundbreaking notion in 1938 when it was first performed.

"The decision to cast Bob came very naturally out of reading the play, appreciating its metatheatrical qualities and blurring that line between what's real in our community that we live day to day and what's real in the play," Davis said.

Our Town uses no set, just a bare stage. The Stage Manager addresses the audience from time to time, and narrates the action from the balcony and elsewhere. Within all of that, characters in the mythical Grover's Corners live out their lives, have dreams and undergo changes. The barrenness of the stage and small-town feel have led many to interpret the play as a sentimental slice of Americana — something these actors are determined to rise above. For Davis, it evokes the revolutionary discoveries of Albert Einstein.

"Einstein showed us that space and time are a fabric that's intertwined," he said, "and that we could potentially move freely through both."

A note in the script by Wilder asks that players avoid sentimentality. Freefall's Our Town will communicate much nonverbally, through choreography by Leann Alduenda.

"Something that's really cool about our production is that the inner life comes out through this movement and this expressive dance," said Kelly Pekar, who plays Mrs. Gibbs.

As for Jones, an accomplished actor long before The Studio @620, the role is a chance to accept direction.

"I like things that stretch me," Jones said. "As I told Eric the very first day, 'Use me, mold me, push me.' At 61, I like to reach. And this is definitely a reach."

Our Town runs Saturday through Feb. 14. 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $21-$43. (727) 498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.

FLYING THROUGH: PARSONS DANCE

Before he started Parsons Dance more than 30 years ago, David Parsons had already worked with people who would change contemporary dance. He has since become one of those people.

Parsons, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., has taken that physicality he learned as a gymnast to new levels. His company performs tonight, and anyone who loves dance will want to consider going. In the same way the best musicians within a genre have often played with each other at some point, Parsons worked as a young man with the founders of the Pilobolus dance troupe. He danced with Momix, a Pilobolus offshoot, before founding Parsons Dance in 1985.

In the 1990s, he hired Juilliard graduate Robert Battle, who stayed with Parsons Dance for seven years. In 2011, Battle became only the third director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the largest dance companies in the world. The lighting designer he has used, Howell Binkley, won a Tony for Jersey Boys and designed the lighting for the smash hit Hamilton.

"I think that family tree pushed me toward doing a lot of stuff that doesn't have a lot of sets or props," Parsons said. "It's really about the human body."

He is on a mission to spread dance to people who are just starting to realize how much they need it. "When you have So You Think You Can Dance and so on in the last 10 years, young kids really want to be in the performing arts because they see that. And who wants to sit in front of a computer all day?"

The show starts at 8 tonight at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $45-$55. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

Comments
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18
How a Largo doctor became a Tony-nominated Broadway producer

How a Largo doctor became a Tony-nominated Broadway producer

LARGO — Dr. Jeffrey Grove stitches up cuts, sets broken bones and treats infections, all of the things family doctors do every day. His father and grandfather did the same. Their diplomas in osteopathic medicine hang in his office near the antique ex...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/13/18