We just published CL’s 2017 Fall Arts Preview and we’re working on the next Best of the Bay, due out Sept. 28, so it feels like a good moment to talk about new chapters in the lives of three artists we’ve praised in past issues of both.
Jared O’Roark won Best of the Bays in 2015 and 2016 for his work at The Space at 2106, which he co-founded with Erica Sutherlin and Robert Morris in 2015. An ambitious attempt to establish a performance space in West Tampa that emphasized diversity in both programming and casting, The Space kicked off with a critically acclaimed take on Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls, and this year O’Roark staged a riveting Laramie Project. But attracting consistent audiences was always a challenge, and code issues plagued the century-old building, a former restaurant which Morris, a real estate investor, had been letting the company use rent-free. In January, Sutherlin left for California to get her Masters in film at USC, and although O’Roark had planned to carry on without her, an opportunity came up in Cincinnati at the same time he was breaking up with his longtime boyfriend, and the timing seemed right.
“I’m feeling all the feels,” says O’Roark about his next step. Starting Sept. 25, he’ll be the education and outreach director for WordPlay in Cincinnati, a newly created position in an organization which nurtures kids of all ages via the literary arts. He’s excited about the opportunity, which returns him to an arena where he’s already proven his expertise — helping young people express themselves by putting their experiences into words, as he did with his Emmy-winning Shattered Silence project. But he can’t deny sadness at the end of The Space.
“I leave feeling very successful,” he says, because he and Erica were able to realize their vision of a safe space for diversity. “It just hurts my heart that we gotta go.”
And it hurts ours, too. But Jared will no doubt make good things happen in Cincy, as he did during his 15 years in Florida. To wish him well on his next chapter, friends are throwing him a Bon Voyage party at The Bricks of Ybor on Saturday, Sept. 2 from 4-7. The public is invited.
Last we spoke to Blake High School grad Taylor Trensch, for the 2016 Fall Arts issue, he was at the Williamstown Theatre Festival starring in Poster Boy, a musical about the gay NJ college student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after being subjected to cyber-bullying. Then he went off to play the featured role of innocent shop clerk Barnaby Tucker in the Bette Midler Hello, Dolly, the hottest show on Broadway tickets-wise. But next year he’ll go back to playing a character plagued by insecurities and internet rumors: he’s stepping into the title role in the Broadway smash Evan Hansen, the part that won Ben Platt quasi-legendary status and a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.
No pressure. But Taylor’s used to following in the footsteps of Tony winners playing troubled teens; he was understudy for Alex Sharp in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NIght-time, and frequently went on for him.
Platt will be leaving the production in November, followed by Noah Galvin (ABC’s The Real O’Neals). Trensch takes over in February 2018.
We first wrote about Calvin Royal III in a 2006 spring arts preview when he was a dance standout at Pinellas County Center for the Arts/Gibbs H.S. He has continued to live up to his potential, and then some. He was selected for a prestigious apprenticeship at American Ballet Theatre in 2010; was promoted to the corps in 2011; was singled out by the New York Times as “a new star” in 2013; won a $50,000 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship for artists with potential to be leaders in their field in 2014; and this year — well, I’ll let him tell you (from an email sent to CL earlier this month):
“I just returned from NY from performing out at the Vail International Dance Festival, and prior to that received the news that I have been promoted to Soloist with ABT!!! It's been a busy summer and I'm off to Sun Valley, ID for the Sun Valley Ballet Festival, before returning to NYC to start my first season in the new position with the company.”
Soloists, of which ABT has 10, are second only to principals in a dance company. It’’s worth noting that one of ABT’s principals is the now-famous Misty Copeland — who, when she was promoted from soloist in 2015, became the first African American woman to be named a principal ballerina in ABT’s history. Royal is one of only a few African-American men in the company; if he should ever be promoted to soloist, he’d make a little history himself.