On a balmy Friday at the Flamingo Resort, folks reclined by the pool sipping juicy cocktails. Guests checked in after driving hundreds of miles to the mecca of fun they had read about online.
And the desk phone rang with a relatively new request at the Flamingo: Play tickets.
The cheeky tropical resort with a statue of a naked diving lady in the lobby is known as a getaway for gay clientele. The Flamingo has night clubs, drag shows, dancing, pool parties. But now, it's expanding into the cultural arena of theater.
The Flamingo, open since 2009, has started hosting plays in an under-used space at the 34th Street South property called the Blu Room. It was once a restaurant called Hemingway's, once a dance club. Lately, it has been the spot for country line dancing.
"Nothing has really caught on," said manager Lyle Cartwright.
In July, Flamingo owners moved things around and hosted a play by Joseph Alan Johnson called Gay/Sex/Life. Following that, they brought in a cabaret show with singing and dancing. Both were so popular, Cartwright said, they had to turn people away. The room holds about 70 people with traditional theater seating.
So it became the Blu Room Theatre. Another play from Johnson begins a seven-night run in the space Saturday. Green Card Wedding Bridesmaid, Johnson said, is a "frothy comedy with a magical twist," tackling topics of marriage equality.
It's appropriate. With marriage laws changing rapidly, the Flamingo management is looking ahead to a day when gay marriage will be legal in Florida. They expect to host a spate of weddings on the property and be a place for more families to stay.
The Flamingo's owners won't ditch the party atmosphere. They just want to soften the edges.
The staff plans to take out the bar and erect a more permanent stage in the Blu Room, with a separate entrance so play guests don't necessarily have to walk through pool parties.
Cartwright has talked to local actor and drag performer Matthew McGee about bringing his popular Scott and Patti Show to the space in November. He also envisions improv and stand-up comedy in the Blu Room.
The goal is variety.
"We don't want to do every play as a gay play," said Cartwright. "I kind of lean towards very artsy shows, so we just have to find those right connections."
Adding the theater is one step in broadening appeal. Michael Wilson, the former general manager of Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City, has just joined the staff. He plans to step up the drag shows and add brunches and lunches.
The Flamingo has also started hosting the Skyway Marina District Business Association's monthly classic car shows in the parking lot. The shows are a prime time to advertise the Blu Room Theatre to people who wouldn't ordinarily stop by.
"We're just getting that foot traffic in there and getting people to not be afraid to come onto a gay resort," Cartwright said. "Because those lines are slowly going away."
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Contact Stephanie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.