SCENE BREAKER: In the Heights homecoming, the crew gets its due and short Shakespeare = funny Shakespeare

A favorite performer comes home to American Stage

click to enlarge Jorge Acosta (left) and the rest of American Stage's In the Heights cast. - Chad Jacobs
Chad Jacobs
Jorge Acosta (left) and the rest of American Stage's In the Heights cast.

Here’s what’s behind the curtain this week in Tampa Bay theater…

THE PRODIGAL KEVIN RETURNS: Patrons claiming a grassy spot at Demens Landing for In the Heights may experience flashbacks when the character “Kevin” hits the outdoor stage. The figura paterna in American Stage in the Park’s production of the Tony-winning, Pulitzer-nominated, Sazón-flavored musical is played by Jorge Acosta (Stageworks' The Laramie Project, American Stage's Anna in the Tropics), a longtime Bay area favorite who emigrated to Hoboken a few years back to try his luck in the bigger Big Apple pond. The move paid off — Acosta has been muy ocupado on stage and in commercials and independent film, and even scored a funny scene with Tina Fey on 30 Rock — but he jumped at the chance to return to American Stage in order to cross Kevin off his bucket list, where the role has occupied a top slot since Acosta saw the Broadway production. Though eponymously set in Manhattan’s bubbling, largely Dominican neighborhood Washington Heights, the hit show was actually inspired by the next neighborhood to the north, Inwood, the childhood home not only of In the Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, but also of Acosta after his 1969 “Freedom Flight” from Cuba with his family. “It’s about the part of the city I grew up in,” says Acosta. “It has an optimism, and a love of Latino culture that we simply have not seen in a musical before.” Opening Friday, the 30th annual American Stage park production is something of an event: It features the biggest set, cast and band yet, according to Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte.

AS OF TUESDAY, THEY ARE “SUNG” HEROES: Actors hog all the applause and most of the press, and along with directors and designers they take home nearly all of the trophies handed out for the in-all-other-respects collaborative art of Theatre. Hoping to spread the love more evenly, alliance organization Theatre Tampa Bay (TTB) held its first-ever Spark Awards ceremony Monday night at freeFall Theatre. TTB member stage companies each picked worthy individuals whose essential contributions fall outside the usual awards categories — stage managers, board members, box officers, and so on — and TTB conferred the kudos in a show emceed by WIT Improv. Recipients included Jobsite Company Stage Manager Matthew Ray; Tampa Repertory Theatre Production Manager, choreographer and assistant director Crystal Solana Bryan; and St. Petersburg Opera board member Dr. Nancy J. Preis. The full list of formerly unsung heroes is published here.

MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST REPLACE ALL THE ACTORS WITH POKÉMON: About as old as full-size theater, Toy Theater miniaturizes the stage experience with dolls for actors and elaborate tabletop dioramas for sets, and names among its famous practitioners Orson Welles, Pablo Picasso, Terry Gilliam and Sir Ian McKellen. This Saturday night only, artist Zach Dorn deploys his Toy Theater show — 21st Century style — at [email protected] In his An Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show, a recent grant recipient from the Jim Henson Foundation, Dorn moves digital cameras through toy-sized streets peopled with paper puppets, all to dramatize tales about a lonely puppeteer stalking the child of notorious celebrities, a ghost who bugs a little boy, and an opera-singing landlord who refuses to return a security deposit.

“TO CLEARWATER THEN: WHERE NE’ER FROM TAMPA ARRIVED MORE HAPPY MEN.” (King Henry V, act 4, sc. 8 — abridged, inexcusably). Hat Trick Theatre Productions is celebrating its freshman production as the new theatre-in-residence at Ruth Eckerd Hall’s spiffed-up Murray Theatre with a lark: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Showing this weekend only, the popular comedy presents three actors (favorites Jack Holloway, Steve Fisher and Paul McColgan) unto-the-breaching their way through all 37 plays, extremely and hilariously abridged. In a legitimately Shakespearean twist of fate, one of the actors was involved in a car accident last weekend, and will perform with his too-solid flesh badly bruised. SCENE BREAKER would reveal which actor's ribs hurt, but the melancholy actor himself suggested that patrons might enjoy coming to the show and trying to identify the actor by watching for subtle, telltale grimaces onstage.

Got a tip for SCENE BREAKER? Email Scene Breaker in care of A&E Editor Julie Garisto, [email protected]

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