Friday, April 28, 2006

New feature - Subscribe to this feed!

Check out the right toolbar of this blog. Towards the bottom, below the Archives heading is a small button that says FEED solosub. If you click that button it will take you to a page that will let you select your RSS feed reader and have CULTURE SHOCK delivered right to you.

Leeann posted about the virtues of feed readers a while back, and I thought it would be a good idea to offer you a one-click solution to setting that up for you. I use a desktop reader, built into Mozilla Thunderbird.


- David J.

10 years of Rent

This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the original Broadway production of Jonathan Larson’s hit musical Rent. On Monday night, the original cast reunited once again on the stage of the Nederlander Theater to perform the show that launched many of their careers. The event was a benefit for three special organizations: the New York Theater Workshop (the theater where Rent was staged before it made the move to Broadway), Friends in Deed (a support organization for those dealing with life-threatening illnesses) and the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation.

I first saw Rent in January of 2000, here at TBPAC. I was a senior in high school and really didn’t know much about the story going in. I left with the songs in my head and a passion for the show. It was so much different than anything else I had ever seen.

I couldn’t deny for long that I had become a “Renthead.” That’s what they call those of us who are die-hard fans. Over the past six years I’ve seen the show 25 times in six different cities. I’ve camped out on sidewalks, sometimes for as long as 24 hours, just to get front row tickets. Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people from all over the country. Those friendships have made it all worth it. Rent has become more than just a show to me. It’s an experience.

Rent is now the seventh longest running show in Broadway history and with the recent release of the movie, I imagine it will stick around for some time to come.

- Tara M.

New releases - Tool and Pearl Jam

There are two albums coming out in the very near future that have me a little excited. I can't imagine either artist ever playing These Hallowed Halls - but a boy can dream, right? This is the first time I've been as simultaneously excited about two new albums coming out as when Foo Fighters In Your Honor and Weezer's Make Believe hit the streets.

First up there's Pearl Jam's self-titled album. I saw the latest cover of Rolling Stone and it says Best Pearl Jam Album in Ten Years. Wow. That's a mighty big statement there. You can read the full review of the album here. When PJ first broke big and all the world was stocking up on flannels and letting their hair grow shaggy, I was immersed in the gothic-industrial subculture and so took a pretty pretentious pass on listening to anything like them with the few exceptions like Sonic Youth, Fugazi and Soundgarden. The wife is a huge fan, and so of course retold the great story of all the Seattle bands, their backstories and the giant family tree that seemed like it sure had an awful lot of heroin in it.

In recent years I've really admired Eddie Vedder's politics (and I'm not always want to jump on a singer's opinions - see: Stipe, Michael and O'Connor, Sinead) and there's a line in particular from that RS review that gives me a lot of hope for the new CD. "The politics on Pearl Jam are not those of right or left but of engagement and responsibility." I like that. A lot. We don't get enough of that these days.

The second album that has me excited is Tool's new effort - 10,000 Days. Despite Maynard's work with other projects such as A Perfect Circle, it's been 5 years since Tool's 2.3 million copy selling Lateralus. I'll hopefully be listening to an advance copy of the album with tomorrow morning's coffee. I'm hearing interesting things about tabla and sitar orchestrations, ethereal soundscapes and of course the signature sonically relentless rock Tool has come to be recognized for. Even going a step further than the last Tool and A Perfect Circle albums, apparently most tracks on 10,000 days are 7 - 12 minutes long. That's a lot of rock.

With Maynard stating in this month's Revolver that he's probably done with APC, let's hope it's not another 5 years before the next Tool effort.

- David J.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Getting in the act

If you're a local performer, new to the area or just "out of the loop," or if you've only flirted with the idea of performing there are a lot of ways you can ply your trade here on open of the many stages at TBPAC.

The Center's resident opera company, Opera Tampa, holds annual auditions for the Opera Tampa Chorus. I've known quite a few people who have done chorus work, some that have done it now for many years. Enormous sets, great costumes, a chance to sing on the Morsani stage - it could be quite an opportunity for a diva-in-the-making.

Similarly, The Center's resident theater company, Jobsite Theater, also holds annual auditions for their season.

If you're interested (or know someone who is), be sure to check out that information and apply by the deadlines.

If you're looking for an opportunity to learn more or just try some things out - even if you've never been on stage - The Center offers an opportunity there also in the annual Community Arts Ensemble event. A little birdy tells me that information on how you can sign up to participate will be available by the start of next week. Check back at TBPAC.ORG or for more information.

Break a leg!

- David J.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Non, it's not easy being green ...

When it comes to opera and wine, I like the 40-weight stuff: A good syrah and something heavy like La Boheme, Madame Butterfly and Carmen.

But we recently jumped at the chance to see an opera -- any opera -- at the spectacularly beautiful Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. Turns out it was the opening night of a light, comic opera titled Platee and written by a French composer named Jean-Phillippe Rameau in 1745.

First, this building makes Lincoln Center, which I love, look like a poor cousin. Ordered by Napoleon III and completed around 1874, it's simply an incredible space. The discovery of a hidden lake on the site, and some "mysterious" deaths during construction, helped inspire The Phantom of the Opera. The ceiling was painted in the early '60s by Marc Chigall.

As for the opera, I wasn't expecting much. The English translation of the synopsis explained the thin plot: Juno was jealous of Jupiter, so Mercury decides to stage a fake wedding between Juniper and Platee, the Frog Queen. The idea was that Juno would find that whole idea so ludicrous that she'd forget to be mad.

The staging and costuming and choreography totally updated the centuries-old piece. It opened on a stage designed to look like a theater with seats very much like the ones we in the audience are sitting in. Mercury looks like James Dean in a cool suit. The Frog Queen is a man. The diva is costumed in a dress of sheet music pages, which she pulls off in random swipes and hands to the startled musicians in the pit. A lovelorn Frog Man sits in a mezzanine seat then climbs a rope ladder into the orchestra.

I still prefer La Boheme, but Platee provided quite a night of entertainment -- and I didn't even mention yet the dance that mimed couples figuring out how to have sex. (Foot in an armpit? No. Elbow to the head? No.)

- Michael K

Monday, April 24, 2006

Soon: Skinny Valkyries?

Gastric bypass surgery has received quite a bit of press in recent years when The Today Show's Al Roker, American Idol's Randy Jackson, Roseanne Barr and Carnie Wilson from the 90s musical group Wilson Philips all underwent the procedure. Now gastric bypass is crossing over to the genre that is known for the stereotype of large women in horned helmets. Check out this interview with legendary dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt whose gastric-bypass surgery put her in the headlines.

- Angela L.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More on music

Last night I was on the couch relaxing after a long day of work and rehearsal when one of those "1000 Songs" campaign ads for iPod came on. I'm a bit of a sucker for those spots, and overall I think that Apple has done an outstanding job of advertising.

I'd heard the commercial before, but I've never paid much attention to it. This is probably heresy for an advertiser, but I hate ads. I hate watching ads. Typically I just tune them out by staring at a dog or cat. When the spot ran last night the wife says she wonders who the band is, and adds that they sound like The White Stripes. I snap out of my zone and agree with her, noting I actually thought it was The White Stripes. She tells me they're singing about being in a cubicle. Hey, sounds like a great companion piece to the songs from Blue Man Group's The Complex.

I go investigate in the ol' iTunes Music Store and, lo and behold, the song is indeed called "Cubicle" by a band called Rinocerose. Well, there are some funky accents associated with half the letters, but I don't have my ASCII conversion table. You get the gist, right? Looks like the band is about to celebrate their 10th birthday and are a pretty big deal in Europe. Like Michael before me today, I have to remark at how I find new bands these days.

I'm not really what you'd call an "early adopter," even if I'm usually well ahead of the curve on knowing about things. I didn't even get my iPod until last year on my birthday, a silver mini. I quickly followed that up by getting the wife a nifty new nano the second they hit the shelves.

That said - I've become quite an iJunkie since then. I exclusively use iTunes on my computer (after close to a decade of loyalty to WinAmp), I have an AirTunes base station set up on a router to stream my music through the house, and of course the iPod itself which I use while gardening, in the truck (While transmitting on an FM band, not while wearing headphones!) and at my desk.

As a result, I listen to a lot more music than I used to, and it's made me a lot more adventurous musically. I find I crave more different types of music and I often binge on something new til something else comes along. Let's see if Rinocerose becomes a binge or a one-hitter I keep around for the novelty factor.

Got anything new you're listening to? Let us know about it!

- David J.

When the music is better than the food ...

On a recent flight, I again discovered that airlines -- while cutting costs on many areas -- somehow have managed to get a lot hipper in their music selections. It wasn't that long again that airline music was unlistenable.

But Song's low-cost flights, being closed by Delta unfortunately, would let the listener construct personalized MP3 song lists from a series of CDs.

And cruising through the many channels available on our Air France flight, I found Teddy Thompson (Richard's son), Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall), Rosanne Cash, Philip Glass, Tom Waits, Ben Harper, blueswoman Marva Wright and James Blunt (OK, so that's not so hard, but it was the harsh, anti-war "No Bravery," not just "You're Beautiful").

Not to mention a host of acts I had never heard of: The Greenhornes? The High Dials? I've since discovered that The Greenhornes had a song in the Bill Murray movie, "Broken Flowers," and opened a bunch of dates for The White Stripes. Shows how much I know.

So, next time you need a new music fix, you might just have to take to the air ... although I'm pretty sure Mick Jagger would be dismayed to find his "Sweet Thing" listed on the Easy Listening channel.

- Michael K.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Catchup with Catie

One of the more popular Club Jaeb artists we brought in this year was singer-songwriter Catie Curtis.

She does a pretty good job of keeping her fans posted. Here are some excerpts from her most recent email:

It's been an exciting week around here. Mark Erelli and I were awarded the International Songwriting Competition Grand Prize for our song "People Look Around," which we wrote after Hurricane Katrina. For the whole story, go to:
Ben Wisch just finished mixing the song for my upcoming album (Long Night Moon, due out in August 2006), so we posted it on as a pre-release download. Hot off the press ... or out of the studio in this case.

This weekend I play in Massachusetts and Maine. Then I'll visit Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Texas and Oklahoma at the end of this month. For those of you who asked, I definitely will return to Chicago and to the west coast in the fall. I'm sorry we couldn't schedule it this spring.

It snowed here yesterday but I think spring is really on the way (although my 3 year old says it's going to keep snowing until next Christmas).

Hope to see you,
We've got some promising leads on next year's offerings, and as soon as some things are firm I'll be sutre to share.

Did you come to any of the shows? Have suggestions on future artists to bring? Let us know!

- David J.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A nice note from a happy customer

In our Me First/Gimme society I don't typically see a lot of gratitude floating around. We do a lot of contests with the media and third party partners for tickets (which I'm sure you're familiar with if you listen to local radio) and I always find myself surprised when someone takes the time to write us a thank-you letter. Too many times, I've seen the exact opposite: winners complaining about seat locations, they wanted a better prize or want more special preferential treatment etc.

I got a lovely note today from a patron who won tickets to see I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change in our Jaeb Theater and I wanted to share it.

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

Thank you for a most enjoyable afternoon in Tampa. Winning the tickets to [the show] allowed me to get reaquainted with [TBPAC] after several years' absence and to realize just how accessible it is for driving from St. Petersburg.

Our seats provided a very good vantage point, and we enjoyed the table seating. The show was so clever, the performers were just marvelous in their many various roles, and the pianist was pretty terrific too.

My guest and I had a thoroughly delightful time. And I will not hesitate to venture to Tampa/TBPAC in the near future.

Thanks again.

C. C. (name withheld)

Who says the art of the thank-you letter is dead? Thank YOU, C. C., for giving us another chance.

- David J.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

To rush or not to rush?

As a person who spends most of their time in These Hallowed Halls (40 hours as a marketing dude and most nights and weekends as Artistic Director for Jobsite Theater), I get perspective from all sides - employees, volunteers, patrons and of course artists.

One of the more recurring things I think I see, specifically in regards to our Jaeb Theater and Shimberg Playhouse, is a mindset that advance ticket purchases are not required and that you can always walk up right before a show and buy tickets.

That notion sends both the marketing dude and artist in me into fits. First, both sides hate to see anyone get turned away at the door. It's awful. It's embarrassing and disappointing. Often it makes people mad enough to at least say they won't be back at a future date to see the show because they just wasted all this time coming down for nothing. With shows in the Jaeb and Shimberg, there are often plenty of other performances that people could have gone to had they called ahead and bought tickets in advance. It can be rather feast or famine. We can have a Tue. or Thu with a third to half a house and then Fri. and Sat. nights where we turn 20, 40 people away at the door. There are of course the entire sold-out weekends or runs, or entire weeks without a sold-out show.

I just can't stress enough that the thought that those shows "never sell out" is just an ugly old lie. A current illustration: Saturday night performances for I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change are consistently selling out, and the show has been running since Feb. We've also had the same happen with Fri. or Sun. night or any of the weekend matinees. All of the Sat. evening performances of The Goat in the Shimberg sold out prior to the day of show as did most of the Fri. shows.

So what to do about all of this? As a person who goes and sees shows myself, I too deal with this. In the hopes of not sounding preachy or condescending (Which is genuinely not my intention. Both artist and marketing dude have no greater desire than to see all patrons happy and all seats sold), I have a few bits of advice. But, considering you're reading a blog off the TBPAC website, I may just be preaching to the choir. If that's the case, feel free to share.

  • You wouldn't just walk up to see Chris Rock or Harry Connick the night of the show and expect there'd be tickets, right? Truth is, any show can sell out, especially if it's in the smaller theaters (268 for the Jaeb, 75-130 for the Shimberg). If a Fri. or Sat. night is the only day you want to see or can see a show - buy in advance.
  • We know ticket surcharges are less at the window. Instead of just coming down right before the show to save the money, why not call and check on availability first? The TBPAC Ticket Office operators should be able to give you a good indicator if advance purchases are necessary (though they can't give out exact house counts) or if you might fine to walk up.
  • If you really want the walk-up surcharge, why not come down in advance on your lunch hour or after work and get the same lesser service charge instead of waiting to just before the show?
  • You're not sure of your plans til the last minute? Sure, that makes sense - we're all busy. Again, call before you come down and just check. I met a woman one night who drove down from New Port Richey and arrived 5 minutes prior to curtain of a popular show in the Shimberg and couldn't believe there were no seats, when in fact the show had sold out days before.
  • Also keep in mind that most shows in the Jaeb and Shimberg have student, senior and military rush ticket opportunities as of 30-90 minutes to curtain. It may appear there are plenty of seats open until a class or two of college students or a senior group comes down right before curtain and buys the rest of the seats up. I've seen it happen! Arrive early if you simply can't buy in advance!
Have any other myths about TBPAC you want to see busted? Looking for other helpful bits of advice? Have you always wanted to know something or have anything about the facility you'd like to see demystified? Ask me!

- David J.
Mined from a TMG press release we recently received. I tried to edit out most of the marketingese here and just leave you with the facts:

Sprint users will be the first wireless customers in the U.S. to experience Broadway on demand via the most off-off-Broadway medium imaginable: the wireless phone. The Emmy-Award winning Sprint TVSM soon will feature The Broadway Channel(r), showcasing Broadway's hottest shows, national tours, interviews with its brightest stars and exclusive red-carpet events including the upcoming 2006 Tony Awards.

Theatre-lovers nationwide will be able to instantly access exclusive, customized video content previously available only on a dedicated channel in New York City hotel rooms, or online via

"The emergence of The Broadway Channel on Sprint TV will offer wireless phone users a truly captivating and entertaining wireless channel," said Matt Hege, vice president of The Broadway Channel. "Sprint customers will have a 'backstage pass' to the best of Broadway from wherever they are [on the Sprint PCS Nationwide Network], whenever it's convenient to them."

The Broadway Channel will be available to Sprint TV subscribers on Channel 57 in the entertainment category. Daily programming will include a "clip of the week" from one of Broadway's top shows; interviews with actors, directors and other theater insiders; special features from shows on tour; exclusive on-location segments from opening nights; star-studded red-carpet events and more.

- compiled by David J.

CHICAGO announces star casting!

John O'Hurley, currently playing the role of Billy Flynn on Broadway is taking off on the road, and heading to Tampa. You didn't know that he was a Broadway sensation? Here are some more fun and maybe surprising facts about Mr. Hurley (who you might remember from a little show called Seinfeld).
  • Named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive”
  • Last summer, he danced his way into the hearts of America as the ultimate champion of the highly rated ABC show “Dancing with the Stars”
  • He has a holiday book coming out on November 2nd called “It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons Learned from Dogs”
  • O’Hurley also just released a CD, called “Peace of Our Minds,” a collaboration of piano and cello compositions by O’Hurley and world renowned cellist Marston, sold out in 8 MINUTES on QVC and is a nationwide bestseller. “Peace of Our Minds,” the first completely independently produced CD to ever reach #13 on the Billboard Music charts
  • O'Hurley is now the regular host of NBC's "The National Dog Show presented by Purina," a Thanksgiving tradition to 21 million viewers
  • O’Hurley won a Screen Actors Guild Award for "Best Ensemble" for his work on "Seinfeld."
  • John lends his voice to several of America's most popular cartoons. He is currently playing "King Neptune" in "SpongeBob SquarePants"
  • It was O'Hurley's unique portrayal of the wry and witty "J. Peterman" on Seinfeld that led to dozens of advertising campaigns for companies such as Xerox, M & M’s, Progressive Insurance and The Travel Channel, earning him multiple advertising and marketing industry awards. In addition, life imitates art for John as he is John Peterman's (the real J. Peterman) business partner and part owner of the J. Peterman Company!
- Summer B.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A spicy mix

Merely calling The subdudes music "gumbo" doesn't quite get it. I mean, it definitely indicates the mixture of folk, soul, blues and cajun music that's mixed together in their sound. But it doesn't get at the heart of those incredible harmonies on "Why Can't I Forget About You." Or remind you that they released one of the greatest covers of an Al Green song, "Tired of Being Alone." Or that they're one of New Orleans' most durable exports. (The week after they play in Ferguson Hall, they'll be at the Jazz and Heritage Festival.) The new CD, "Behind the Levee," produced by Keb Mo, is hot on the Americana music charts and the boys were just featured on NPR. Come on down and party, y'all.

- Michael K.

Feedback on the Girl ...

A few patron comments on our recent The Girl of the Golden West opera production, submitted to me via Angela L.:

"Your production, which I attended on Sunday matinee, was superb. The singing, the acting, the conducting and in particular the staging were just right. Particular plaudits are due the director, Dorothy Danner. I came up from Venice and am a subscriber to the Sarasota Opera. I wanted you to know how exceedingly pleased I was with Sunday's performance." - Bill

"I am Kamal Khan, Resident Conductor and Chorus Master of Palm Beach Opera, and I must congratulate the entire company on the success of FANCIULLA. I had the pleasure of talking with Maestro Coppola and Dorothy Danner after the show to congratulate them personally, but this also extends to your wonderfully committed orchestra and chorus, as well as the fine cast. It is a very difficult opera , but both the Act One and Act Three curtains were enormously moving. Puccini worked his magic through you all. The very best of luck in the coming season."

- compiled by David J.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I gave in... and I'm glad I did!

I'm what marketers would call a "late adopter." It really takes quite a bit for me to jump onto the latest bandwagon. But once I do, I'm usually glad I did.

In December I had planned a cross-country trip and decided that I needed some reading material. So like most I headed over to Borders to check out the gigantic selection. Per usual the first thing I run into is the huge book displays and since they’re in the front of the store, you have to at least give them a scan, right? That's when I came across The DaVinci Code. I'm officially a sucker for a good display and heck, can millions of people really be wrong? (If you were wondering, I’m still not on the Harry Potter bandwagon)

The next day I hopped on the plane and started reading… and reading… and reading (the automatic response on a five-hour flight when the featured movie is The Dukes of Hazzard). From the start it had all the makings of a good book ... short chapters and an addictive plot. I finally finished the book this past weekend (totally not a reflection on the book, just that I’m a busy and rather slow reader). I can say with absolute certainty that it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. And if you’re wondering if I’m going to see the movie in May ... HECK YEAH!

- Angela L.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Things to be happy about ...

After reading this story, I was reminded how lucky we are to have the Tampa Theatre. No, I need to put my money where my mouth is and actually go watch more films there ...

- David J.