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Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer

Andrew Meacham

Andrew Meacham is the performing arts critic for the the Tampa Bay Times, covering the growing local venues for theater, orchestra, opera and dance. Andrew previously served as the Epilogue obituaries writer for the Times. He grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Eckerd College and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 892-2248


  1. Review: Stageworks' 'Lights Rise on Grace' a gritty, challenging drama


    TAMPA — Stageworks Theatre has started its season with a substantive play, one that challenges easy but inadequate understandings of race, culture, family and sexual identity.

    Lights Rise on Grace, a version of which was named Outstanding Play of the New York International Fringe Festival, is making its world premiere within the National New Play Network. Though it has been performed since 2007, playwright Chad Beckim is by his own account a compulsive rewriter, and the issues covered feel both timeless and contemporary....

    The story begins with Grace (Jessica Stone), a shy 17-year-old estranged from her Chinese-American parents. She meets Large (Aaron Washington), a charming African-American man who goes to prison, where he meets Riece (Alexander Craddock).
  2. 'Lights Rise on Grace' spotlights tough emotional issues at Stageworks


    Stageworks Theatre starts its season this weekend with Lights Rise on Grace, a play that explores fear and family and love.

    In bringing it here, Tampa's Stageworks is collaborating with the National New Play Network, an alliance of nonprofit professional theaters that brings selected recent works around the country and the world. Consequently, the Tampa stop for Lights Rise on Grace is part of what the network calls a "rolling world premiere," even though it has played elsewhere....

    The one-act features title character Grace (Jessica Stone) navigating her attachment to two men, Riece (Alexander Craddock) and prison inmate Large (Aaron Washington), and a cultural tug-of-war with her Chinese immigrant parents.
  3. A varied, lively season in store at Ruth Eckerd Hall


    CLEARWATER — The season starting this month at Ruth Eckerd Hall offers nine Broadway plays, 18 comedians and more than 80 popular concerts, plus dance and classical music.

    The hall broke records last year with $15.9 million in gross ticket sales, and has booked even more events at Ruth Eckerd Hall and the adjacent renovated Murray Theatre on McMullen Booth Road, as well as the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater....

    Highlights of the theater season include a six-day run of the The Book of Mormon (Feb. 16-21), the Tony award-winning musical that has been called both crass and ground-breaking.
  4. Stage Planner: Ringling rolls out smorgasbord, a Tampa native comes home, 'Pantomime' at USF



    Every fall, the Ringling rolls out another feast of theater and music and movement. The Ringling International Arts Festival is back next weekend, this time with hard-to-find performers and even entire genres from Asia.

    "It's going to be an artistic triumph," said Dwight Currie, the festival's curator of performance. "The great strength of the Ringling Museum and everything we do here is its diversity."...

    The Tao Dance Theater of Beijing will be among the performers at the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota Oct. 15-18.
  5. Florida Orchestra to play for patients at Hillsborough hospitals


    LUTZ — The Florida Orchestra will give free concerts this week for patients and staff at Hillsborough County hospitals, part of an ongoing effort to reach the sick and the elderly.

    The orchestra will perform at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the atrium of St. Joseph's Hospital-North in Lutz. The program is Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, featuring concertmaster Jeffrey Multer on the violin; and pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederick Delius, Benjamin Britten and Felix Mendelssohn, the orchestra said in a press statement. ...

    Michael Francis conducts the Florida Orchestra earlier this month at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. 

The orchestra will give free concerts this week for patients and staff at Hillsborough County hospitals, part of an ongoing effort to reach the sick and the elderly. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  6. Review: 'Zombie' invasion at Freefall delightful in places, also mixed bag


    ST. PETERSBURG — Take a seat at Freefall Theatre's season opener, and the set looks much like you would expect for The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon Moncrieff's tidy flat.

    You know differently, of course.

    The Importance of Being Earnest with Zombies, an adaptation by Eric Davis, Freefall's artistic director, is going to be anything but tidy. If there were any doubt about that, it's removed in bold-faced type in the program, setting the play "During the London Plague of the Undead of 1895."...

    Kelly Pekar plays a zombie-fighting Gweldolen Fairfax in Freefall Theatre's The Importance of Being Earnest with Zombies.
  7. Florida Orchestra season opens with Rachmaninoff in triumphant fashion

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Before the first note sounded for the first concert of the season, the Florida Orchestra faced a daunting challenge.

    Friday's performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 marked the debut of Michael Francis as music director, only the fourth in the orchestra's 48-year history. In recent months, the opener took on a new significance with the appearance of guest pianist Valentina Lisitsa, whose caustic and insulting tweets stemming from the conflict in her native Ukraine led to the cancellation of concerts in April by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra....

    New music director Michael Francis conducts the Florida Orchestra in the Star-Spangled Banner before the start of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 on Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater.
  8. Freefall promises an undead evening with 'The Importance of Being Earnest with Zombies'



    The witty dialogue and plot entanglements are still there. Oscar Wilde's satirical depiction of Victorian society is still funny. It's just that this particular version of The Importance of Being Earnest, adapted by Freefall Theatre artistic director Eric Davis, includes the walking dead.

    The premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest With Zombies, which Davis also directs, opens this weekend. The cast is psyched about delivering a fresh take on a classic....

    Kelly Pekar plays a zombie-fighting Gwendolen Fairfax in Freefall Theatre’s zombie apocalypse adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest.
  9. Stage Planner: Florida Orchestra opens with Rachmaninoff, Amy Schumer at Oddball, zombies at Freefall



    The Florida Orchestra starts its 2015-16 season this weekend. The performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 is about more than the Russian composer, or even the piece considered so demanding it drove Australian pianist David Helfgott crazy in the biographical movie, Shine, starring Geoffrey Rush.

    The round of concerts, which starts Friday, marks the debut of music director Michael Francis....

    Aziz Ansari
  10. Florida Orchestra opens season with controversial pianist


    This weekend is an important one for the Florida Orchestra, with the debut Friday of Michael Francis as music director. Francis will conduct Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.

    The momentousness of the occasion — the orchestra has been without a music director since 2012, and Francis is only the fourth to hold the position in 48 years — had potential to be upstaged by controversy. The pianist who will play the challenging concerto, Valentina Lisitsa, was the subject of public outcry earlier this year....

    The Toronto Symphony Orchestra canceled Valentina Lisitsa’s performances in April.
  11. Review: Tampa Rep's 'The Children's Hour' remains a timely drama


    TAMPA — The Children's Hour, Lillian Hellman's groundbreaking play about a rumored lesbian relationship, debuted on Broadway in 1934. It returned in 1952, and the playwright was brought before Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee.

    Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss starred in a 2011 run in London. Now Tampa Repertory Theatre has opened its fifth season, one dubbed American Visions, with The Children's Hour. The choice coincides nicely with Tampa Rep's residence in Tampa Preparatory School, where the theater will perform two of its four productions this season (the other two are at the University of South Florida)....

    In The Children’s Hour, Mary Tilford (Olivia Sargent, 15, left) accuses girls school founder Martha Dobie (Katie Castonguay) of a lesbian relationship, beginning a public scandal. Both give strong perfor-mances that help Tampa Repertory’s production deliver when it counts.
  12. Review: In 'Once' at the Straz, it's always about the music


    TAMPA — The proprietors of Once, the musical, really want the audience to feel comfortable. So they put a bar on stage at the David A. Straz Jr. Performing Arts Center. You're welcome to buy a beer, even stick around as multi-talented cast members wander out and play some of those rousing Irish drinking songs. (Aren't most Irish songs somehow related to alcohol consumption, or at least conducive to that activity?)...

    Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal from the ONCE Tour Company ???? Joan Marcus
  13. A Brit embracing Americana, Michael Francis takes over Florida Orchestra



    The new maestro of the Florida Orchestra walks into his empty office, sets down his briefcase and gestures to the empty bookshelves lining one wall.

    "You can see I haven't really done much with decor," says Michael Francis, 39, who is about to debut as the fourth music director in the orchestra's 48-year history.

    For now, the only photos of his wife and infant daughter are on his phone. Yet the orchestra is transforming through this space, almost by the hour. For months, Francis has been preparing to lift the baton at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and conduct Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. ...

    Michael Francis, who played soccer, rugby and cricket while growing up in England, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Sept. 17.
  14. Stage Planner: St. Petersburg native takes 'Once,' women swap stories in Ybor, Metropolitan Opera streams



    Sunday's performance of Once, the Broadway musical about an Irish singer, will be Rachel Prather's last with the touring cast. Prather is the understudy for Girl, the female lead.

    She will play the role Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Prather, 25, was born in Tampa and grew up in St. Petersburg. She sang her first solo in the third grade at Holy Family Catholic Church....

    St. Petersburg native Rachel Prather will play the lead role of Girl in Sunday’s performance of Once, a love story about an Irish singer.

Courtesy of Rachel Prather
  15. Review: 'Intimate Apparel' impressive debut for American Stage artistic director


    ST. PETERSBURG — The audience begins to take in Intimate Apparel, the first show of American Stage's season, as soon as they take their seats. Three boudoirs and the interior of a cloth merchant's shop make more out of the space than is actually there, each lit just enough to arouse curiosity.

    Set in 1905, the play by Pulitzer Prize-winning Lynn Nottage explores loneliness and power, and the ways in which we enslave each other and ourselves. The delicate garments in the show title drape around bodies or over furniture, fragile comforts against a brutish world....

    Katrina Stevenson, left, plays Mrs. Van Buren, a well-off client of the protagonist seamstress Esther, played by Nikole Williams, in Intimate Apparel at American Stage.
Courtesy of 
Chad Jacobs