Sunday, June 17, 2018
Stage

Tampa man's theater career comes to fruition

TAMPA — A group of actors sit in an open room of the Maney and Gordon law firm as Rory Lawrence leads them through a series of diction exercises.

Their voices bounce off the cold white walls. "How now brown cow," says Lawrence, and the group begins to repeat as if they are a sports team preparing to hit the field.

"All right, places!" Lawrence yells.

The drab walls, lit by fluorescent lights, soon become a sunny neighborhood where a woman and her sons engage in a conversation about a Bible verse mentioned at that morning's church service.

The conversation represents the opening scene from Lawrence's latest play, Fighting God, and audiences will see the full show today at Stageworks Theater.

The rehearsal, however, shares equal importance, because it is part of Lawrence's dream coming to fruition — a dream that began when he walked away from a corporate job.

"I got a lot of confirmations," said Lawrence when he thought back about the day he decided to make theater his full-time job. "I remember watching Oprah and she was telling her story. She said something that was key, and I felt like she was talking to me.

"She said that there may come a time and place where you're unhappy or discontented with your job and what you are doing. She called it a whisper."

For Lawrence, this whisper came from his many years of theater experience. The whisper soon became the nudge that moved him to leave behind seven years at T. Rowe Price financial investment firm in Tampa.

"I said I don't cry for this. I burn with passion and I cry for doing theater and film," said Lawrence when thinking back to the day he decided that his 9-to-5 job as a client service representative was getting in the way of his goal.

After touring the country to participate in theater festivals, Lawrence put on a variety show in 2008 that showcased one of his first plays, titled The Trip. The play was billed as a comedy and featured local actors and public figures like Tampa attorney and founding partner of the national law firm of Maney and Gordon, Jack Gordon.

Gordon, who played a jogger, embraced Lawrence's vision and became a supporter, lending out his company trucks to haul sets to various locations.

The group also uses one of Gordon's offices near Tampa International Airport as a practice space. Gordon has played roles like the judge in the company's production of 12 Angry Men, and he has a role in Fighting God.

"The average human being has desires and dreams and things that they are passionate about that tends not to be their job," Gordon said. "Most people do what is most convenient, and then later on they have regrets. Rory is absolutely living it. He's a testament to it, and I'm proud of him.

"It's very rare to find someone who is willing to roll the dice. That's something that absolutely should be admired and respected about Rory."

Lawrence's plays fall under the category of inspirational gospels, but he wants to break the typecast of audience members who come out to see his plays.

Fighting God explores the life of Quincy, who witnessed his mother fall victim to assault.

The story fast-forwards to a modern day when the young man, played by Lawrence, runs a local law firm with his brother, Elton, played by Jay Washington.

Quincy, an atheist, is in constant battle with his God-fearing brother and has to make decisions that later change his perspective on life.

Lawrence says his plays serve as a form of therapy for audience members. He recalls talking to audience members after his shows who share their life stories and thank him for putting on the productions. At each of his shows, Lawrence and cast members encourage audience members to reach out to the community for help if they need it. The idea came from Lawrence's wife, local psychologist Dr. Kahlila Lawrence.

"Although the show does its job of teaching and inspiring," Kahlila Lawrence said, "there are parts that can bring up some emotions, and I figured that we should have something available for them."

Lawrence says his focus is to create a company that can benefit the community. He added that he believes this is the start of more things to come. He plans on producing a film for Fighting God and touring the country in 2014. He is also planning a local theater festival for next summer.

Comments
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
Tampa Repertory gives proper respect to Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’

Tampa Repertory gives proper respect to Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’

TAMPA — Arthur Miller’s 13th play, A View From the Bridge, may be set more than a half-century ago but couldn’t be more relevant today. It tackles America’s struggles around immigrant discrimination and gender identity with se...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/07/18