When word got out that Kama Gallery would close earlier this year, a pair of Tampa arts scene veterans stepped in. Joe Griffith, front man for Experimental Skeleton, and his partner, Kym ODonnell, moved into the historic building just north of Ybor City and reopened it as Para. The space launched on 6/6/06 with an apocalypse-themed exhibit of artists from the Bay area and Orlando who riffed on the idea of the end of the world with tongue for the most part firmly in cheek. The current show, a slightly more reserved affair involving two painters and an unconventional jewelry maker (Donna Sweigart, who uses super-strong magnets to hold the resin segments of her bracelets together), suggests that the gallerys range will encompass established artists working in traditional media as well as up-and-comers breaking all the rules.
There doesnt seem to be a part that Steven Clark Pachosa cant play. But this versatile actor gave the performance of a lifetime as Martin Gray, the celebrated architect who falls in love with a goat in Jobsite Theaters version of Edward Albees The Goat: Or, Who Is Sylvia? Pachosa managed the part with the utmost seriousness; his Martin was so infatuated with his four-legged lover, he couldnt bear to hear her disparaged as a dumb animal. Begging for his wifes understanding, pleading for his best friends tolerance, Pachosa forced us to consider our own deepest beliefs about what is acceptable, what is forgivable. And he made this shocking, challenging play impossible to forget.
Bender, whos worked mostly for Hat Trick Theatre, is easily one of the most exciting and many-sided actresses on any stage. Just look at the range shes shown in one season: In Private Eyes, she was Lisa, a deceptively sexy woman whose penchant for brinksmanship made her dangerous to any lothario. In Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, she was Diane, a badly wounded rape victim still trying to understand the role of justice in the universe. And in When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? she was Clarice, a usually demure violinist whose self-restraint gave way to rage when she realized that her husband couldnt protect her from a vicious drug smuggler. All were complicated characters, and Bender played each one with full respect for their complexity. Call it by its name: pure talent.
Theres a reason why this set of Gainesville siblings has become a local live favorite and why the seriously local-scene-minded New Granada Records reached beyond the boundaries of the Bay area to grab up Dear & Glorious eponymous debut CD for national release. Its because the group rocks with both guts and brains, to produce a smart, catchy, wiry, subtly dark-hearted take on underground rock that resonates all over, as opposed to just hitting hard or being infectious or successfully setting off the Hip Meter. Im not saying the best band currently working the Tampa scene actually comes from Gatorland or anything, but Dear & Glorious Physician is definitely up there among the top acts from anywhere hitting our small-venue stages. www.dearandglorious.com.
A sunny spring weekend in March saw the streets of downtown Tampa fill with over 300 artists and craftspeople of all stripes and thousands of visitors from near and far. In airy white tents, painters, sculptors, wood-carvers, potters, jewelry makers and others displayed their wares, rotating pieces in and out as they sold and hustled entries off to the fairs judging room (where the winners of $61,500 in prize money were chosen). Booty, a separate contemporary art offshoot, debuted this year in a train of white PODS on Franklin Street. Curated by Covivants Carrie Mackin, the fair-within-a-fair brought together works by some of the areas edgiest groups, from Experimental Skeletons whimsical fountain of wishes to an inscrutable adventure in taxidermy from the Fluff Constructivists. Underground Rising weighed in with black-and-white photography and mixed-media works, and Iron-On Resistance rocked the AIA gallery space a few blocks away with screen-printed gear.
Formerly at 4906 N. Florida Ave., Tampa (now closed)
Runners Up: Craftsmen House, Florida Craftsmen Gallery
For a nonprofit, a moneymaking sideline like merchandising can spell the difference between staying open and closing the doors. Creative Clay, the St. Petersburg arts center that specializes in serving people with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges, deserves kudos for creating a snappy line of playfully hipster-ish accessories, like temporary tattoos, T-shirts and wrapping paper, to help bring home the bacon. Students draw the images printed on each item, like the screaming beauty queen cartoon that decorates beer and martini glasses, and earn a cut of the profits. (The remainder is channeled back into product.) Not only are the items fun and totally gift-able they serve as a distinctive visual calling card for Creative Clay in stores around town. Now thats smart
With tireless willpower, vision and good humor, David Jenkins has turned Jobsite Theater, once a dark horse in Ybor City, into the resident theater company at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and one of the most important producing organizations on either side of the Bay. While some artistic directors search for balance by scheduling mindless fluff next to serious drama, Jenkins form of balance never compromises on quality. So last season he gave us an Off-Broadway drama (Frankie and Johnny), love among the 30-somethings (Phyro-Giants!), a Pulitzer Prize-winner about two African-American brothers (Topdog/Underdog), a Tony award-winning shocker (The Goat), an Italian economic comedy (We Wont Pay! We Wont Pay!) and a homegrown riff on Grimms Faery Tales. The 2006-2007 season looks even better.
Enter the Castle of Outrageous Fantasies. Anything goes here. Be the most extreme person you want to be or just an adventurous boy or girl looking for a scene far from the ordinary. Youll find yourself jumping and grooving to pop new wave, 80s industrial and Goth like you just jumped out of a coffin. Aint no judging here if you want to be weird and daring. The bondage door guys proudly advertise their frisky behavior in the photos that greet you at the entrance. Dont forget to catch a glimpse of the Senator poking around each corner in his lacy teddy. Sssssexy! The dancers fiercely claim their respect on the podiums as they shake, sway and stroke their way into the heart of each song. Hot, sweaty, sticky bodies are everywhere. Word of advice: The bartenders dont play. Order efficiently and tip well or risk being body-slammed by a tall, muscular woman in a short skirt. Follow these simple rules and The Castle should be a downright awesome experience.