What’s in store at the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival

Workshops, networking and entertainment opportunities highlight the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival premiere.

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click to enlarge JUMPIN’, JIVIN’: Saul’s Juke Joint, one of the plays at the fest, stars, from left, Amber Forbes, Rocky Cusseaux, Camille Scringer, Jay Washington and Kimberly Webb. - AMS Visions
AMS Visions
JUMPIN’, JIVIN’: Saul’s Juke Joint, one of the plays at the fest, stars, from left, Amber Forbes, Rocky Cusseaux, Camille Scringer, Jay Washington and Kimberly Webb.

A first for our medium-sized metro, The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival will make its auspicious debut this weekend, offering a wide array educational, career and networking opportunities for the both amateurs and professionals in the local theater scene. There are even some great performance and entertainment auditions for those of us who prefer to sit in front of the stage and watch.

It’s particularly commendable how the Tampa Theatre Festival offers representation from some of our best and brightest in the theater community while bringing in some outside-the-clique talent. Founder Rory Lawrence appears to have pioneered an ethnically diverse and truly unifying experience.

The first day, Fri., Aug. 29, starts out with a registration and light breakfast provided by First Watch at Stageworks at 10 a.m.

At 11 a.m., participants can learn how to perform unscripted from improvisational guru Gavin Hawk’s Improv Workshop at Stageworks. At 1 p.m., actors can attend a workshop presented by the adorably versatile Georgia Mallory Guy, a critically raved-about professional actor who’ll share her real-life knowhow on The Business of Acting Workshop at Stageworks. Guy discusses what all those acronyms mean to an actors’ career — AEA, EMC, SAG. Stuff you don’t learn in college.

After a lunch break, participants will reconvene at Stageworks at 3 p.m. for the Low Down on Auditioning Workshop by Libya Pugh, who’ll demystify one of actors’ most dreaded routines.

At 7:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Theatre Festival will present the full-length play Death Row, written by Calhoun Cornwell, at the Straz Center’s Jaeb Theatre. The intense, morally charged play follows four men from different walks of life who have been accused of a capital crime, but it’s not clear whether they’re even guilty. 

Lighten your mood afterward at a networking party at Stageworks afterward, beginning at 9:30 p.m.

Another registration and light breakfast will be provided by First Watch at Stageworks on Sat., Aug. 30, at 8:30 a.m. One of the most anticipated workshops of the weekend begins starts off the day — which may be sold out at press time: Tasha Smith’s Boot Camp for Actors. Smith, who’s appeared in the Tyler Perry films Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married Too?, resurrects her Angela Williams character on the OWN com-dram series For Better or Worse. At 2:30 p.m., actors can attend a monologue competition at Stageworks, and at 5 p.m. playwrights go head to head for the Short Play Competition (Day 1) also at Stageworks.

Festers will cap off the day with plays that should be both uplifting and chuckle-icious: the swingin’ period piece Saul’s Juke Joint by Tony Stinyard and starring Kibwe Dorsey, who’s appeared in more than 50 films, plays, TV Shows and commercials, at the Straz.

Local director/playwright Lil Barcaski’s premiere of The Year of Independent Living ­— a comedy about two Jersey boys and the women who love them — at Stageworks. Both plays begin at 7:30 p.m.
A must-attend event follows the performances — a free open mic, 9:30 p.m. at Stageworks. With all that talent hovering over downtown Tampa, this open mic should be a bit more polished and more off the cuff than most.

The jam-packed fest spills over into Sun., Aug. 30, with CL’s very own theater critic Mark E. Leib leading a playwriting workshop at 11 a.m. At 12:30 p.m. the Short Play Competition (Day 2) convenes at the Straz.

More plays fill the afternoon at 3 p.m.: East Lansing at Stageworks and Seasons The Musical at the Straz.

The whole shebang concludes with a big party, of course — a 7 p.m. awards party at the Straz.

Tampa Bay Theatre Festival events will take place at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Stageworks, and the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Tampa. Costs for workshops, competitions and performances ranges from $20 to $95. A weekend pass is available for $100. Visit tampabaytheatrefestival.com to find out more about the event and rqlproductions.ticketbud.com/tampa-bay-theatre-festival to puchase tickets.

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