STILL FRESH: TAMPA BAY THEATRE FESTIVAL
Rory Lawrence's idea for a inclusive theatrical melting pot, a showcase for budding playwrights and hub of encouragement for players on stage and off is no longer just a dream. The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival kicks off its fourth year this weekend at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The first show (7:30 p.m. Friday), a new play by Lawrence, I Think She's the One, grew out of the long-standing banter between Lawrence and a friend, David Best.
"Just me and him joking around," Lawrence said. "I said, 'I wonder if something like this would translate on stage.' There was no story, no theme."
Now there's a romantic comedy. Lawrence stars as Andre, a successful playboy who goes back to live with his grandmother after his home is destroyed in a fire.
"He thinks he can continue his crazy lifestyle, and she really has something to say about that," Lawrence said. "She reminds him of the things he is rooted in, the things he is grounded in."
The weekend features workshops in improv, auditioning, writing and more, and includes short and full-length original plays and a monologue competition. The festival wraps up with an awards party Sunday. For a full schedule, see tampabaytheatrefestival.com.
JOBSITE OPENER: THE FLICK
Jobsite Theater is off to an early start this season with The Flick, a Pulitzer-winning play (2014, for best drama) by Annie Baker. Brian Shea, Thomas Morgan and Georgia Mallory Guy play employees of a second-run movie theater in Massachusetts, one of the last to use 33mm projectors. Their conversations wander from movie trivia to popular culture, the march of technology and their own dreams.
Baker, whose work was last seen locally in Stageworks' The Aliens, has earned widespread praise for her realistic dialogue, often punctuated with silence. Summer Bohnenkamp, who is directing this show, likens the effect to eavesdropping.
"It takes a minute to adapt to Annie's style," Bohnenkamp said. "It's a very genuinely observational, voyeuristic kind of style. They're not performing this conversation for you; they're really having it."
Baker set it all in an empty theater from the point of view of the screen — which means audience members of the Jobsite production will be facing rows of empty seats looking back at them.
"There's a big commentary about the screen and what's projected on it, on the difference between film and digital," Bohnenkamp said. "There are a lot of moments where the actors are looking to the screen to find something, to see something."
Opens Friday and runs through Sept. 24 at the Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $29.50. A preview performance at 8 p.m. Thursday costs $15. (813) 229-7827. jobsitetheater.org.
SHE READY: TIFFANY HADDISH
Growing up in foster care, comedian Tiffany Haddish knew she was special.
"My grandmother used to tell me: 'The state of California is paying me a lot of money to make sure you don't die,' " Haddish, 37, told the Times. "I could've taken that in a negative way but I took it positively: Yeah, I'm valuable. There must be something great I'm supposed to do here."
Apparently Haddish's destiny is making people laugh. She's currently on a roll with a national stand-up tour, co-starring on NBC's The Carmichael Show, a Showtime special She Ready and being the breakout star of Girls Trip, a $100 million sleeper hit and still counting. Haddish's comedy is bold: frat house raunch, fashion model fierce. She shares her grandmother's double entendre advice and offers fashion tips to the Ku Klux Klan.
Her show 7 p.m. Friday at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater, is sold out. rutheckerdhall.com. (727) 791-7400.
For more with Haddish, go to tampabay.com/thingstodo/stage.
Steve Persall, Times movie critic