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Jobsite Theater builds sweat equity

The collective organization wants to develop a viable theater scene in Tampa, where theater has floundered in the 1990s. Its Y2K: Yearn to Know opens tonight.

On a sweltering afternoon in July, members of the Jobsite Theater company were salvaging everything they could from the old Columbia Jobbing warehouse in downtown Tampa, just one day before the building was scheduled to be torn down.

The building was crammed with theatrical raw material _ scenery and costumes, seats and lumber, a 20-foot cross and an electric organ. All of it was left over from the Tampa Players, which was once a thriving theater company. The Players fell on hard times and went out of business about five years ago.

Jobsite, a new theater company, had received permission to take what it might be able to use. Members hauled three 26-foot truckloads away before the wrecking ball turned the building into a pile of bricks.

Some of those salvaged goods will undoubtedly be put to use in Jobsite's latest production, Y2K: Yearn to Know, a collection of original works that opens tonight in the Off Center Theater of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

"The whole show takes place on a set that simulates a computer mother board," said Jobsite co-artistic director Michael Caban. "It's our response to all the media hype about Y2K."

Caban directed the show, which includes three short plays on the millennial theme plus a 15-minute "rock opera" by Joe Popp and a monologue by David M. Jenkins, the company's other co-artistic director.

Y2K will be Jobsite's fourth production in its first season, which has also included a pair of double bills presented at the Silver Meteor Gallery in Ybor City. The company's most successful show was Brownbread, an Irish black comedy by Roddy Doyle. Staged at the Off Center, it drew paid attendance of 113 for the closing-night performance.

Jobsite is a collective organization with a board made up of recent alumni from the theater department of the University of South Florida. They want to develop a viable theater scene in Tampa, where theater has floundered in the 1990s.

Stageworks is the longest running theater company in Tampa, but it recently lost its residency at the University of Tampa's Falk Theatre. Gorilla Theater is still defining itself after just two full seasons in its own space in Drew Park. Other troupes come and go.

"We are a group of like-minded artists," Jenkins said of the Jobsite collective. "We may not have the exact same taste, but we all have a hunger to see theater that hasn't been seen around here, cutting-edge work, alternative theater."

Among the plays on the Jobsite agenda are True West by Sam Shepard and Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo.

"This company walked into Tampa at a very interesting time," Jenkins continued. "There's a restructuring going on, and we'd like to see all the theater companies work together. We just want to see this city blossom."

To that end, a Jobsite ambition is to create some kind of arts resource center in an affordable building. It's a project that got impetus from the discovery of the Tampa Players old shop. The material that was salvaged is now in storage, but the company would like to find a home.

"Our proposal is to create a theatrical library whose resources would include used props, costumes and set supplies," says a proposal by Jobsite and Old Bones Architectural Antiques, a Tampa company. "These services would be rendered at no cost to any artistic group seeking support. Many of Tampa's theater groups lack the necessary funding to produce live theater."

Andrea Cabot, Jobsite's costume designer, imagines a resource center not just for theater people, but for painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, dancers and other artists. "If there was a place where we could all have access to space, a real community would develop, and there would be all sorts of collaborations," Cabot said.

"It's something that Tampa really needs," Caban said. "There needs to be some solidarity. There's no one place where artists can come together."

Y2K: Yearn to Know opens tonight and runs through Aug. 29 at the Off Center. Tickets are $8 and $12. Call (813) 229-7827.

CHAMBER MUSIC _ The Van Eyck Trio, which performs works of Brahms, Haydn and Kodaly at the Museum of Fine Arts at 2 p.m. Sunday, includes the Florida Orchestra's principal cello, James Connors. Also in the group are Sophia Silivos, a violinist in the Houston Symphony, and pianist Chadd Merrigan, a USF music faculty member. Tickets are $10 and $12. Call (727) 896-2667.

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