TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those plays take on straight-up sexism as bluntly as Flying, which begins a run across both sides of Tampa Bay....
By Andrew Meacham • Times Performing Arts Critic
Jack London would have approved. • As Freefall Theatre was preparing the world premiere of White Fang, itself a hymn to wildness, its performing space was savagely attacked by Hurricane Irma, which blew off pieces of roof sheeting and exposed the theater to flooding. The show will go on, albeit a week later and in an adjacent auditorium. • Electrical glitches, power outages and lost rehearsal time also caused four other theaters — Jobsite, Tampa Repertory, Stageworks and the Heather — to delay or cancel some performances. • The flip side is that the runway has never been this crowded for local theater. Or shown this much variety. Area theaters are going in at least two directions, both strengthening the personalities that shaped them and expanding their repertoire. • You'll see Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, adaptations of George Orwell's most famous works, and foot-stompin' (or tear-jerking) musicals. You'll get a dose of acid comedy and stronger stuff meant to awaken the senses, maybe even make you uncomfortable. • In between, there could always be another storm, but it won't be Irma, which petered out. The season the storm shook up, meanwhile, is just getting started....
The last clear day before the storm, Stephanie Gularte looked at Milo, her 8-year-old Boston terrier.
"You ready for action, bud?"
It was the kind of day you couldn't complain about, if only because the previous week was hotter and even more humid. But a breeze blew off the bay as Gularte, 46, walked her barrel-shaped companion past Coffee Pot Park.
She prefers taking him when it's cool, in the morning or evening. "These smush-faced dogs, they don't handle heat real well," she says. ...
TAMPA — Two decades after Rent shook up Broadway with a starkly joyous musical that demanded to be recognized, a nostalgic tour is taking audiences back.
It's a strange concept, the tail end of Generation X already looking back. But so much has changed since Jan. 25, 1996, the debut of Jonathan Larson's play about free-spirited and financially strapped young people living in a New York warehouse, that the timing seems right. Larson never got to see his creation before a Broadway audience; he died earlier that day of an aortic aneurysm....
LIVE THAT FANTASY: THE ROYALE
Three professional sports franchises pour millions of dollars into the Tampa Bay area, branding their images onto caps and T-shirts, flooding the broadcast and print media with every kind of marketing. And a recent study by five arts organizations found that arts and culture nonprofits are at least as influential, a $241 million industry in Pinellas County alone....
TAMPA — When you step into the world of Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar's taut drama centered on two couples at a Manhattan dinner party, you never feel secure about where you sit. No one really can.
Assimilated Pakistani lawyer Amir Kapoor and his American wife, Emily, begin on a comfortably domesticated note as she paints him in boxer shorts and a blazer, a portrait only from the waist up. Around them lie the trappings of two people who have taste and means but no need to flaunt either....
ST. PETERSBURG — The sun has come out for Freefall Theatre.
A week after Hurricane Irma blew off sections of roof sheeting, a gift has put the theater on the way to a full recovery. Philanthropists Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton have pledged to match all contributions for the theater's fundraising campaign, up to $100,000.
"It was so generous of them," Freefall development director Margaret Murray said. "This was not a gift we had asked them to make."...
ST. PETERSBURG — Hurricane Irma blew sheeting off part of the roof at Freefall Theatre, leading to water damage that will cost an estimated $90,000 to repair and forcing a shift in performing space and the season schedule.
The world premiere of White Fang, Jethro Compton's adaptation of Jack London's tale of a hybrid sled dog, has been moved from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. The British playwright Compton, who is also directing the show, will take White Fang to London after the production at Freefall, which will employ puppetry reminiscent of the Broadway hit War Horse. ...
HIGH HOPES: FLYING
In the 1940s, the military knew women weren't cut out to be pilots — except when they were. Flying, St. Petersburg playwright Sheila Cowley's examination of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), combines that history with a love triangle, when the marriage of two pilots is tested by a war buddy. It's Tampa Repertory Theatre's promising season opener. "They have all returned to their small town and are trying to adjust to post-war life, having had this incredible opportunity and liberation experience," said Becca McCoy, who plays former WASP pilot Susan. "As our director put it, the play is really about that space between what used to be and what is not yet." Justin Smith, best known for television roles in The Vampire Diaries, Underground and A Good Day to Die Hard, plays the injured serviceman who comes to stay with Susan while waiting for her husband to return from the war. Rosemary Orlando and Holly Marie Weber round out the cast, and Robin Gordon, who directed Tampa Rep's Hamlet, directs this one....
ST. PETERSBURG — For local theaters, the biggest drama over the weekend was happening well off stage, as Hurricane Irma threatened the Tampa Bay area.
Monday's blustery aftermath left most feeling relieved. Freefall Theatre emerged the hardest hit, with a section of roof sheeting missing from above its offices at 6099 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg.
Producing artistic director Eric Davis said the theater would have a statement after it had a chance to survey the damage. Exposed tar paper, commonly used as a layer between plywood and a roof's outer covering, was visible from the ground along the building's east side....
SOMBER REMINDER: THE GUYS
A New York firefighter captain calls a newspaper editor after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, asking for help preparing eulogies for the men he lost. The Guys, which journalist Anne Nelson based on a true story, took just nine days to write. Jobsite Theater performed the show in 2003 and has renewed it periodically with husband-and-wife actors Paul and Roz Potenza, including this weekend in Clearwater....
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....
FIGHTING FASCISM: GEORGE AND RUTH
In 1936, Spanish nationalists led by Gen. Francisco Franco staged a successful revolt against a democratically elected leftist government, beginning the Spanish Civil War. Para-military socialist and communist forces of the International Brigades rallied to help the government in a losing cause. Among them was 23-year-old George Watt, right, who left New York in 1937 to join the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and later led morale-boosting and political education efforts for fellow volunteers. He corresponded with Ruth Rosenthal Watt, bottom right, an equally passionate activist he had married earlier that year....
ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
Foundation Partners Group, an Orlando company, has completed the acquisition of Premier Care of Florida, the Anderson-McQueen portfolio which consists of two namesake St. Petersburg locations, E. James Reese Funeral Home, A Life Tribute Funeral Care, Sunnyside Cemetery, Affordable Memorials, and Pet Passages....
JUST POPPED UP: 321 IMPROV FESTIVAL
Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore know how to live in the moment. The improv duo From Justin to Kelly specializes in "radical simplicity," spending 25 to 30 minutes in a location suggested by the audience.
"Unlike most improv shows, which are very talkative, we spend most of the show in silence; this forces us to make emotional choices rather than strictly cerebral choices," said Peters, who co-founded New York's Countdown Theatre with Buttermore....