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LiveArts recalls bay's early days

It felt like old home week Thursday night at LiveArts' production of Crossing the Bay, which is playing through Jan. 23 in the Janet Root Theatre at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg.

The LiveArts Peninsula Foundation is home-grown, after all, a nonprofit group devoted to producing original plays about Florida history. Harry Chittenden is its executive director.

Crossing the Bay puts fictional characters into real-life events in the 1880s, formative years for St. Petersburg and Tampa. The script borrows from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Fittingly, the production moves across the bay to Tampa's Falk Theatre later this month.

Too, there has been lots of buzz about Jennie Eisenhower, granddaughter of former President Richard Nixon and great-granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who has the role of Lizzie Tippetts.

The production was written and directed by Bill Leavengood, who also is LiveArts' artistic director, with music, lyrics and musical director by Lee Ahlin and choreography by Cheryl Lee.

Leavengood and Ahlin have collaborated on numerous past works, and Thursday's audience was abundant with family, friends and supporters of LiveArts and Shorecrest, among them Mary Harden Booker, Mary Christian, Bill and Jean Heller, Evelyn Craft, Bill and Kathy Stover, Joyce Wilson, Phyllis Williams, Tim Clemmons and Robin O'Dell, Bob Stackhouse and Carol Mickett, Joyce Baker, Ann and Sheldon Wykell, Jan Sher, Debbie Sembler, JoEllen Schilke, Mary Wyatt Allen, Chris Allen, Niel Allen, John and Alicia Bryan, Astrid Ellis, Clint Page and Dar Webb, Mark and Marty Petty, Jack and Louise Barrett and Sean Manning.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio were good sports and performed briefly in the production, as did Paul Wilborn, Tampa's creative industries manager.

Friday dawned early for me, which meant that I had to decline an invitation to Barbara Sansone's postproduction party for cast, crew and supporters.

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