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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

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On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

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  1. HomeTeam Huddle: Familiarity under center for Plant

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA

    Plant might be known for its line of successful quarterbacks, but lately those quarterbacks have been one and done, starting for one year as a senior before graduating. • Rex Culpepper breaks that streak. For the first time since Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely returned as the starter in 2010, the Panthers will have a familiar face under center. • That's a fact that made spring a whole lot easier, coach Robert Weiner said....

    Juwan Burgess
  2. Lightning: Hedman's parents visit for Game 5; waiting party in Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    Special guests

    Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said his parents flew in from Sweden to watch Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. "To get the win in front of them was pretty special," Hedman said.

    Bishop bounces back

    Ben Bishop is only the third goalie to post a shutout in the playoffs after giving up at least five goals in the two previous games of a series. The others: Dan Bouchard (Nordiques, 1981) and Carey Price (Canadiens, 2008), according to the Elias Sports Bureau....

    MATT BAKER   |   Times
  3. Tampa firefighters 'disgusted' to find six American flags in dumpster on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Firefighters starting their shift Monday morning at Station 19 found six American flags in the dumpster behind the station, fire officials said.

    The flags, which firefighters believe were stolen, were mounted to poles and covered by debris.

    "Firefighters were disgusted at the find, particularly on Memorial Day," Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny said in a news release about the incident....

  4. American Stage's 'Red' exposes an artist's drama

    Stage

    Visual art meets performance art when American Stage Theatre Company presents Red, the Tony Award-winning play about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. John Logan's drama spans a period of two years in which Rothko and his assistant completed a giant commission for a series of murals in New York's Four Seasons restaurant, exploring the artist's turmoil through the process. The play, directed by Karla Hartley, stars Andrew J. Perez as Ken and Gregg Weiner as Rothko. The show opens Friday and runs through June 21 at 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. $39-$59. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. This Wednesday's preview is pay what you can, and Thursday's is $29. (727) 823-7529. americanstage.org....

    The Tony-winning play Red opens at American Stage in St. Petersburg, with Andrew Joseph Perez, left, and Gregg Weiner.
  5. A year after VA scandal, House veterans committee chairman wants more progress

    Veterans

    SEMINOLE — Whenever U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller attends a public event, veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs employees find him for short, intense conversations about one VA issue after another.

    It happened after his Memorial Day speech at the Bay Pines Veterans Cemetery, where a short line of people waited to get a minute with the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee.

    This is life for one of the VA's biggest Capitol Hill critics, who told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday he remains frustrated by the slow pace of reform at an agency hit in the past year by the worst scandal in its history....

    Miller, the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, is 
a prominent 
VA critic.
  6. Ruskin brush fire burns about 40 acres

    Fire

    RUSKIN — A downed power line and a burning pile of debris started two brush fires that burned about 40 acres east of 15th Street SE early Monday afternoon, Hillsborough fire officials said.

    The fires started separately, but briefly combined and nearly reached 15th Street, right across from a row of houses on the west side, officials said. Extra brush trucks were called in, and the Florida Forest Service plowed around the fire's perimeter to contain it....

  7. Blocked shots power Lightning in victory over Rangers

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — After giving up five goals in back-to-back games, the Lightning's defense buckled down with Sunday's shutout win over the Rangers.

    "We took big steps (Sunday) in being the team we need to be to win," coach Jon Cooper said after the team flight home from New York. "We just looked after our net a lot better."

    Some of that credit goes to Ben Bishop, who became the second goaltender in franchise history with multiple postseason shutouts. But the Lightning was also proud of its unselfish, team defense in Game 5....

    Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop stops Rangers left wing Chris Kreider during Sunday’s Game 5. Bishop made 26 saves in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 victory, and his teammates blocked another 24 shots.
  8. Lightning gets a lift as Steven Stamkos hits his stride at exactly the right time

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Before these playoffs started, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos got some key advice from a Hall of Famer.

    General manager Steve Yzerman, who won three Stanley Cups as the Red Wings iconic captain, told Stamkos that the postseason "never goes according to plan."

    "Expect the unexpected," Yzerman said. "It takes time to get going. Rely on your teammates to pick up the slack. I said, 'As the captain of the team, just keep plugging right along.' And that's what he's done."...

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn's  (55) third period goal putting the Lightning up 1-0 during game 7 on Wednesday (4/29/15) between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. Times photo DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD

  9. USF Bulls make NCAA baseball field for 1st time since 2002

    College

    TAMPA -— The roar of USF's baseball players, coaches and staffers inside a Selmon Athletics Center conference room just after noon Monday was accompanied by a collective sigh of relief — 13 years in the making — elicited by its beleaguered fan base.

    For the first time since 2002, the Bulls (33-24-1) are headed to the NCAA Tournament.

    Perched tenuously on the bubble after dropping 10 of their final 16 regular season games, the Bulls saw their name pop up on the Gainesville Region bracket slightly more than halfway into ESPNU's announcement of the 64-team field....

  10. Rays' attendance woes continue as Lightning captivates Tampa Bay

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tropicana Field's dome protects the Rays from all manner of foul weather, but this year nothing can shield the local baseball club from the Lightning.

    Tampa Bay's hard-charging hockey team is deep into a playoff run, and the region's sports fans, fair-weather to die-hard, are caught in the storm.

    That's troublesome for the Rays' attendance, which is perennially low even without head-to-head competition in their home territory....

    Seats in section 144 of Tropicana Field (right field) were mostly empty as the Tampa Bay Rays played the Minnesota Twins on April 14, 2011. Baseball attendance has continued to lag, and now the Lightning's playoff run is further eating into the Rays' fan base.   [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN, Times]
  11. First construction on Vinik's downtown Tampa project targeted for August

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Back in December when Jeff Vinik unveiled his plans for a billion-dollar waterfront development near Amalie Arena, the idea was to start moving dirt this summer after the Tampa Bay Lightning's season ended.

    Now, with Vinik's hockey team one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup, his development team is working behind the scenes on plans for the redevelopment, and the schedule is shaping up for a late summer start....

    An artist's rendering shows the proposed new USF medical school and heart institute eyed for downtown Tampa.
  12. Report: Charter nears cable deal with Time Warner that may include Bright House

    Business

    In the latest twist and turn of cable TV deal-making, Charter Communications is reported to be near a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable that may also include the simultaneous purchase and merger of Bright House Networks. The deals could happen as early as Tuesday, Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal reported without naming sources.

    Charter Communications is close to buying Time Warner Cable Inc. in a roughly $55 billion deal that would vault the cable operator to the ranks of the biggest U.S. broadband and pay television companies, "creating a more potent rival for the likes of Comcast Corp. and DirecTV," the Journal stated, describing the companies "in advanced talks" for a cash-and-stock deal that would value Time Warner Cable at $195 per share....

  13. Fake officer robs driver in Seffner

    Crime

    SEFFNER — A thief posing as an undercover narcotics officer robbed a motorist during a phony traffic stop Monday morning, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies say.

    Jose Reyes, 34, said he pulled over at about 9:55 a.m. near Clay Pit Road and County Road 579 after the driver of a dark blue sport utility vehicle came up behind him, honked his horn and waved what appeared to be a badge out the window....

  14. Crews search for man who fell off pontoon boat near Hernando Beach

    Accidents

    HERNANDO BEACH — Rescue crews continued searching Monday for a 31-year-old man who fell off a boat Sunday near the Hernando Beach shoreline.

    Joshua Valentine has not been seen since he fell off a 20-foot pontoon boat at approximately 2:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is conducting the search along with Hernando and Pasco counties sheriff's offices and the U.S. Coast Guard. Aviation and helicopter units have been dispatched to assist in the search as well....

  15. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 26

    Events

    The Illusionists: With Broadway-quality staging this show of seven illusionists — each with their own specialty such as the Trickster or the Escapologist — perform stunts, tricks and magic acts with an army of sidekicks, a troupe of dancers and a live band. The show opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Sunday at Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. $56-$82. strazcenter.org....

    Dan Sperry, The Anti-Conjuror, is one of the seven magicians coming to the Sraz Center with The Illusionist Tour from May 26-31. 

Photos Courtesy of Joan Marcus.


Illusionists, The: ? Witness the Impossible
Marquis Theatre

Synopsis:
Seven illusionists enact mind-bending acts of magic and illusion; many have never been seen before. This critically acclaimed production is a mix of outrageous, jaw-dropping acts of grand illusion, levitation, mind-reading, disappearance and a full-view water escape. 

Cast List:
The Manipulator, Yu Ho-Jin
The Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry
The Trickster, Jeff Hobson
The Escapologist, Andrew Basso
The Inventor, Kevin James
The Warrior, Aaron Crow
The Futurist, Adam Trent