Monday, February 27, 2006

Life imitating art ...

In a very "News of the Weird"-type story, the BBC reports that a Sudanese man is forced to "marry" a goat.

In related news: Jobsite Theater, the resident theater company in the Shimberg Playhouse, is oddly enough staging the area premiere of Edward Albee's new play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, in which the main character admits to carrying on an affair with - you guessed it, a goat.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Snow days

Over a long winter weekend in NYC, punctuated by 26 inches of snow, we managed to squeeze in three shows plus "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera.

Andrew Lloyd's Webber's "The Woman in White," which was closing nine days later, provided the most fireworks in its computer-generated stage set. Backgrounds were projected, and then swirled and twisted like a steadi-cam dream. American reviews generally weren't kind to this London hit, but -- perhaps because I entered with low expectations -- I found myself liking it more than I had expected. "All for Laura" was a highlight song, even as some familiar Webber melodies seemed, well, familiar.

The jovial (and evil) Count Fosco set a confusing tone. A woman is killed in this musical. It's jarring to be expected to laugh at his foppish wooing in this context. Still, it will be interesting to see what further life "Woman in White" has, and whether other shows might try this new type of stagecraft.

The revival of "Sweeney Todd" at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre was worth the price of admission just to see Patti LuPone lug that big tuba around the stage. You have to be in the right mood for the bloody work of "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," but if you are, it pays off.

Billed as a mix of "Forever Plaid" and "Nunsense," the cult hit "Altar Boyz" at Dodger Stages satirizes the easy targets of boy bands, specifically a Christian rock band on the last night of its U.S. tour. The Boyz (Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham -- "he's Jewish") break some moves, flex, male bond, sing a variety of songs from rap to ballads to Latino crossover and save the souls of everyone in the theater.

Although not the ostensible lead, Tyler Maynard as Mark combines Pee Wee Herman moves with the voice of a (closeted) angel. The web site, including fake bios of the Boyz, extends the charade.

These faux five are not for the easily offended. But in NYC, they had fans screaming as if this were a real concert.

- Michael K.


The New York Times reports that the current issue of The American Book Review will include a list of the 100 best first lines in novels, as chosen by a group of experts and fans.

The top five:

"Call me Ishmael."
-- "Moby-Dick," by Herman Melville (1851)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
-- "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen (1813)

"A screaming comes across the sky."
-- "Gravity's Rainbow," by Thomas Pynchon (1973)

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
-- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins."
-- "Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Except for the troubling fact that I can't get through even "The Crying of Lot 49" (and I'm sure it's just me)," let alone the tome that is "Gravity's Rainbow" (that may be mostly me, but I gotta give him a little blame for the density factor), it's hard to argue against any of these great book-starters.

One of my favorites is this one from Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Times," a lyrical, sometimes overwrought, novel about growing up in the Carolinas:

"My wound is geography."

What's your favorite first line of a novel? Drop us a note.

- Michael K.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A journey of our own

This weekend I have an old friend coming into town to perform his one-man show as part of TBPAC's Starbucks Expanding Horizons Series - Ayinde Hurrey's Nappy Journeys.

It feels great to see someone that was in my graduate class at UF make it down here as part of the TBPAC season. When Ayinde and I met - we were like night and day. Here I was, a paunchy white goth kid with a penchant for interest in "weird plays" and on my first day I meet this well-built African-American guy with short dreadlocks and if I remember right a fimo/shell ankh around his neck. I'd heard he was a great drummer and dancer. We had absolutely nothing to talk about, and I know we both looked uncomfortable trying to find ways to relate at our first meet and greet as a class.

Despite the wholly two different worlds we came from, we eventually bonded amazingly. I think it must've been because despite our differences we were both iconoclasts in our own ways. We were the outsiders. Through our influence, our entire grad class was labeled "The Renegades" by the graduate chair for our program. Ayinde and I were most proud of that distinction. Ayinde taught me a lot about letting life flow to a degree, of giving up a desire to control things you'll never have control over. He also made me laugh - a lot. Here's a picture of us from 1996. It's pretty clear who is who.

What he's bringing to us is actually his graduate thesis, which has now undergone many years of metamorphoses. At the time, Nappy Journeys was called Nappy Roots of a Schoolboy. It's a multi-character one-person show all dealing with the overall idea of "black hair." Ayinde actually created this piece in lieu of doing a role in a mainstage show as his thesis (as I did with the titular character in Tartuffe). He'd been offered a few things, but nothing really spoke to him as an artist. So instead of just doing something to do it and get the heck out of Dodge, he took the time to develop and create his own piece.

The topic of his show had to have come in a way from his experience in grad school. At one point he was being looked at for the lead in Six Degrees of Separation, but there was a catch. His dreadlocks, now much longer than when I'd met him, would have to go. He wasn't willing to do it. That wasn't the only role he'd turn down in grad school, and it wouldn't be the only reason he ever gave. Ayinde certainly had a tremendous amount of integrity, as a person and an artist. He also put his money where his mouth was when it came to proving it. Renegade, indeed.

His tenacity though resulted in him having a whole show of his own. He's what we in the business call a "theatrical turtle." He can walk around just about anywhere with this show on his back and perform anywhere, anytime. You can certainly make a good argument for that being more useful to an actor about to embark on their career as opposed to doing a regular part in a play.

Good multi-character one-person shows - like John Leguizamo's The Freak or Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll - are a real and rare treat to behold. I'm personally really looking forward to seeing this show again after many years and a lot of growth. It will also be nice to see an old friend. We've been on quite different paths since we left UF, but I know for a fact we've kept our "Renegade" reputation up with everything we've touched since.

- David J.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Another note from Catie Curtis

People Look Around, a song I co-wrote with Mark Erelli, is in the finals of the International Songwriting Competition (in the folk category). If you'd like to know more, or cast a vote, the website is: The song is still available as a free download on my website, and is a response to Hurricane Katrina.

The new album in progress (tentatively titled "Long Night Moon," and scheduled for an August release) is almost ready to mix, with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Melissa Ferrick, Kris Delmhorst and Chris Trapper recording harmony vocals this week and next. Some new studio photos have been posted on my website:

- Catie C.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Slim Pickin's

This Monday's Club Jaeb concert by Catie Curtis has really started to boom. At present, there are less than 50 tickets remaining, and the show is only a few days away. For those interested, you can follow the link off her name and even listen to a clip of her song "St. Lucy."

For anyone interested, don't forget about the Monday Music Mingle at 6:30. These concerts have so far had a good response, and I think are a very cool thing for TBPAC to be doing. As downtown's residency increases with all these condos, I have to think the market is also going to grow.

Actually, that growth could have a lot of positive impact on a lot of our varying types of programming. Exciting stuff, to be sure.

- David J.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Have CULTURE SHOCK delivered to your desktop!

Don’t come to us; we’ll come to you! Did you know that you can sign up for an RSS webfeed (a what?) and have this blog delivered directly to your desktop? Those of you who know this already can ignore me, but for those of you who don’t, check this out. You can download a free RSS reader to your computer and then subscribe to CULTURE SHOCK RSS.

What is RSS webfeed?
In a way, it's a "What's New" that is made available in a format that can be read by any RSS reader (see below for suggested RSS readers). The web feeds contain the latest headlines and descriptions in addition to a direct link to the story on CULTURE SHOCK. So instead of coming to our blog, our blog comes to you.

There are many feed readers available, most for free. You can search Google for "RSS reader" to view many options. A few RSS readers you can try are:

PC users: SharpReader
Mac users: NetNewsWire
Windows/Mac/Linux: Amphetadesk
Web-based reader: BlogLines

OK, I've downloaded the reader, now how do I get CULTURE SHOCK webfeeds?
Setting up a feed differs depending on the reader, but it usually involves copying the URL of the feed and pasting it into the reader. The URL for the CULTURE SHOCK webfeed is

And depending on the reader you choose, you might need to update your computer. Personally, I had to do a Windows update (free, of course) and get the .NET framework installed on my computer to run the RSS reader.

- LeeAnn D.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Art deco

I just returned from Miami where their new performing arts center is shooting for an October 2007 opening. Since a fall 2001 groundbreaking, it's said to be about 92 percent complete. Interestingly, they began talking about building a performing arts center in Miami around 1980, the same time as Tampa.

Cost for the south Florida complex now is estimated at $446 million. The original construction estimate was $260 million. By most accounts, Miami's Performing Arts Center will be a spectacular addition to downtown Miami. The complex's 570,000 square feet sit on 5.9 acres on Biscayne Boulevard.

"The 2,400-seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House and the 2,200-seat Carnival Concert Hall will be Miami venues for the Concert Association of Florida, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, and New World Symphony, as well as premier venues for a wide array of local, national, and international performances ranging from Broadway musicals and visiting classical artists to world and urban music, Latin concerts, and popular entertainment from many cultures," according to the center's web site. "The Studio Theater, a flexible black-box space designed for up to 200 seats, will host intimate performances of contemporary theater, dance, music, cabaret, and other entertainment."

Its acoustician is Russell Johnson of ARTEC, Inc., who did the same job for our Center here in Tampa.

Reading about their project made me appreciate anew the foresight of those Tampa dreamers who moved to action and opened this facility in 1987. Cost then was $57 million for three theaters (and space in the building for a fourth, which was opened in the early 90s.) Since then, the Patel Conservatory, including a fifth performance space, opened in December of 2004 for another $8 million.

We're looking to serve our one millionth patron soon, and beginning to plan our 20th anniversary celebration. I hope you'll come celebrate with us.

- Michael K

Monday, February 06, 2006

Your questions answered!

Q. How long do performers usually tour with a show?
A. Each actor's contract is unique. Many stay 6 months to a year, or more, but often lead performers contract a year at a time. Some performers may even stay with a tour for years.

Curious about something performing arts related? Ask us!

- David J.

Luck of the draw

The following is a great letter we got from a very happy customer:

To whom it may concern,

I won the WICKED Lottery at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on January 28th! It was the most incredible experience and I'm not sure who to thank for that. I went with a friend and won two tickets (that cost $25/ea) that were the front row, orchestra seats of the theatre. Being that close to the stage, experiencing WICKED with it's fabulous Emerald City costumes, the orchestra, the voices, and every facial expression and well delivered funny line was an experience I will never forget.

In Church the next day, I was still wearing my "I won the WICKED lottery" badge on my purse, and two teenage girls started pointing and dreaming that maybe they could win the lottery too. I encouraged them to try because it was an experience of a lifetime. That evening, they adjusted their work schedules and went with their grandmother (also a friend of mine) to wait 3 hours at the theatre for a chance at those front row seats. THEY WON! And they are still talking about the experience. Jenny told me that she couldn't believe that she was walking through the first door of the theatre. Kelsey already had the WICKED CD, so she was also in disbelief. And Patti, the grandmother, told me she not only enjoyed the show, but "it was fun just to watch the faces of 'the girls' (her granddaughters)" as they enjoyed the show. Those two girls really deserved something so nice. They are honor role students, one is in basketball, and one is in music, they both work at the movie theatre, volunteer at church, help their mother with their younger brothers, and the family loves music.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you! If you were the one responsible for having a WICKED Lottery! The show was fabulous, and the whole experience unforgettable!

Linda Lyon

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Late Shift

Right now in the Shimberg Playhouse, audiences have a rare opportunity to see the room look two very different ways in one evening. As a black box theater, the Shimberg can really be used in countless ways. It's also not typically unusual to see two shows play in the room in one night, Jobsite has made a reputation for late night shows such as A Girl's Guide to Chaos and the blockbuster shows in the (abridged) series.

This year however Jobsite is completely testing the boundaries of what can be done in the room by doing two plays using two completely different setups. First, in the early position, Jobsite is producing Suzan-Lori Parks' 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner Topdog/Underdog. This play is performed in a "tennis court" style, meaning the audience is on both sides of the set which sits in the middle of the room.

Following performances of Topdog/Underdog on the weekends, Jobsite is offering another late night comedy, Phyro-Giants! That show is performed in the proscenium configuration, meaning the audience is directly facing the stage (what you'd normally expect when you go to a play) which is on the opposite side of the room from where you enter.

What makes this all the more interesting is that Topdog/Underdog ends about 20 minutes before the curtain goes up on Phyro-Giants! The shift between shows happens in 5 minutes with a crew of 6. First, the furniture for T/U is moved backstage, then the walls of the set are shifted back behind the curtains in the room. Next, the chairs on the secondary seating bank for T/U are moved to the floor (where the set was just a few minutes ago) facing that secondary bank, which then becomes the stage for Phyro-Giants! A ladder is brought out to hide the practical lighting for T/U, the table and chairs are set on what is now the stage for P-G! and then the house is opened for the second show while the final set dressing is going on for P-G! This all occurs while the T/U audience is exiting the theater.

This process only leaves about 15 minutes to get the Phyro-Giants! audience in the door and into their seats. Luckily, there have yet to be any problems. It's a testament to the planning on the part of the production team of Erica Porch (stage manager), Brian Smallheer (set design) and John Lott (light design) who have managed both shows with skill.

Both shows are getting excellent reviews, and are on stage now through Feb. 12.

- David J.

They called it "Wonderful!"

The After Wicked After Oz Broadway education initiative was a wonderful experience for so many people.

Pictures are forthcoming, so watch this space! The appreciative comments from Middleton and Blake High School participants and their families just keep on coming! The monologue, poetry and plot summary presentations in TECO Theater were so creative and a cherished experience for all 75 in attendance. Patel Conservatory instructors Leslie Shepard and Yolonda Williams were awarded as honorary Thespians of Middleton High!!

After the presentations, participants and partnership organizations enjoyed the WICKED experience. According to the instructors, 95% of the students (and parents) had NEVER seen a Broadway show in their lives.

Several members of the cast including Stephanie Block (Elphaba) and Sebastian Arcelus (Fiyero), provided an interview/talk back for the students, teachers and chaperones.
Meanwhile 37 family members and friends joined our public audience by attending Forever Plaid show in the Jaeb Theater.

They too were pleasantly surprised to enjoy a talkback at La Dolce Vita with members of the Forever Plaid cast while waiting on their students to be released from WICKED. A million thanks from the students, faculty, friends and teachers of the After Wicked After Oz project.

To teach is to change a life forever.

- R. Paramoure

Editor's note: Here are excerpts from a few emails we've gotten in response to this event.

I had a fabulous time last night ... It is really hard to say which I enjoyed more - WICKED or seeing how tickled our families were. Some were literally skipping up the Center. I have seen first hand now what wonderful work you do in getting families out that would not have a chance otherwise. Thank you from me and all of our families. - R Bruns, Sylvia Thomas Center for Adoptive and Foster Families

My husband had never been to the Theater in his whole life. And to think, his first time, he got to see our daughter and a really great cabaret show like Forver Plaid. Thanks a Million. - Unsigned

Forever Plaid was excellent!! I only regret my wife was too afraid to play along on the piano when they asked her. Now she wishes she did. - D. Cabrera, parent

Bravo! I think you managed last night’s event incredibly well. I wanted to let you know that the students that Yolanda and I sat with were absolutely blown away by the show and incredibly appreciative of the opportunity they had been given. - Leslie Shepard, Patel Conservatory instructor

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wicked numbers!

The Jan. 24 - 29 performance schedule of WICKED was the highest grossing eight-performance week in The Center's history. The first and second week of WICKED performances brought in more money than the highest grossing week of The Lion King, which previously held the record. The third and final week of WICKED is poised to break that record again. Because of the success of the first engagement, WICKED will fly back to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center next year for another three-week run from Feb. 21 - March 11, 2007.

- Tara M.

Get well soon

The young woman sat in Maestro's Restaurant, sipping a glass of wine.

She mentioned how excited she was about seeing Wednesday night's performance of WICKED. The Wizard of Oz is her favorite movie. Her dog is named after one of the movie characters. She has the soundtrack and a keychain from the show.

And now she was an hour from seeing the touring Broadway blockbuster live.

She seemed happy.

"I bought one ticket for little old me," she said. "I found out I was sick and I figured I could say, 'well, at least I saw this ...' "

I didn't respond quickly enough (what do you say when a stranger tells you that?), and she left the restaurant to make her curtain time.

But I've been thinking about that conversation. We talk sometimes about how theater can show us different lives and take us away from who, and where, we are.

I really hope she had a WICKED time, and that she gets well soon.

-Michael K