Best Of 2012

"At the end of the day, she's my best friend and biggest supporter, and it's very convenient that she sleeps in the bed next to me" —Jim Sorensen, w. Natalie Symons
Photo by Todd Bates
"At the end of the day, she's my best friend and biggest supporter, and it's very convenient that she sleeps in the bed next to me" —Jim Sorensen, w. Natalie Symons

Watch: Recently married Natalie Symons and Jim Sorensen — Most Promising Playwright and Best Actor — talk w. CL's David Warner during the Best of the Bay awards reception Sept. 19 at Creative Loafing, and Natalie almost spills the beans about a part she just might be writing for her husband.


Best Actor Sorensen and Most Promising Playwright Symons got married four months ago. They responded via email to CL's questions about their relationship and their work.

CL: When and how did you meet? And you married… when?

Jim: "We actually met at a Dramatists Guild meeting at American Stage in June of 2011. After dating for about three weeks, we realized we were just meant to be, and have been inseparable since. We were married 5/25/12 in a small backyard ceremony at Thelma Rothman's house."

Did working together in freeFall's Becky Shaw onstage give you an idea of how you'd work together as a couple offstage?

Jim: "Working with Natalie during Becky Shaw was stellar — she's such a strong actor, she made me better — kinda like our life offstage — we have a great respect for each other, and yet it's a very yin-yang thing. We fall into fairly traditional male-female roles, and we both truly enjoy supporting where the other is less strong."

Natalie: "We were already living together by the time Becky Shaw rehearsals started. So thankfully we worked as well together onstage as we did offstage. But more than anything working on Becky Shaw together was a great way to spend time together."

How does your relationship feed your theater work?

Jim: "As far as the relationship feeding the theater work — it definitely does. As is to be expected, we have very similar tastes in acting styles & choices, and a great love of dissecting the minutiae of characters and author's intent. Also, she's basically an unofficial staff member here at freeFall — she does so much to help us out — and I saw The Foreigner (Nat's last show at Am Stage) five or six times — didn't hurt that it was funny and she was great in it — we definitely are each other's biggest fans."

How do you support each other in your work?

Natalie: "For me, part of supporting Jim in his work is about knowing when to offer my feedback or two cents and knowing when to keep it to myself and make him chicken parmesan. It might not be very feminist of me, but there are times when I just like to be his wife. And part of that is taking a step back from being a theater person. It's why I left the theater for so many years. I needed perspectives in order to be a better artist. I think that balance holds true in our marriage as well.

Jim, does Natalie ask for input on her writing?

Jim: "With her writing, she does ask for help, though she's keeping the new piece under wraps 'until about the second or third draft.' We've made minor edits to the published version of Lark Eden which only seem to have made the piece even more endearing and funny (plug alert: Lark Eden at American Stage September 23, 7 p.m.!)"

Natalie: "I haven't asked since we disagreed over the use of the word lope in a sentence."

How do you help each other when you're preparing for roles?

Jim: "We help each other with lines, understanding the character, the show, and our specific relationship to the other characters. And then we laugh & drink lots of wine and [edited for mature content]. At the end of the day, she's my best friend and biggest supporter, and it's very convenient that she sleeps in the bed next to me :)"

Arts & Entertainment


CAUGHT OFFSTAGE: The dancers in Moving Current.
CAUGHT OFFSTAGE: The dancers in Moving Current.

The University of South Florida’s dance company in residence, led by Artistic Directors Shelley Bourgeois, Erin Cardinal and Cynthia Hennessy, is that stellar example of why Tampa is a little more culturally sophisticated than many think. When your friends from the big city pooh-pooh our metro, pop on a vid from movingcurrent.com and show them MC’s vivid dance narratives told through poetically inspired movement. No doubt they’ll see how masterfully the moods range from light and mischievous to intense and heart-wrenching. After getting that taste, take ‘em to see Moving Current live during their 15th anniversary season. The collective’s “current” is inspired by the idea of electricity, and Moving Current’s performances continue to electrify. 813-237-0216, [email protected]

Best Actor

Sorensen was all over Bay area stages last season, playing multiple lovers in Stageworks’ The Blue Room, a naïve young American threatened by omnisexual ghouls in The Rocky Horror Show, a smug would-be rescuer of females in Becky Shaw, and an earnest American come to Weimar Germany to find something to write about in Cabaret. And in every role, he was just about perfect.


Watch: Recently married Natalie Symons and Jim Sorensen — Most Promising Playwright and Best Actor — talk w. CL's David Warner during the Best of the Bay awards reception Sept. 19 at Creative Loafing, and Natalie almost spills the beans about a part she just might be writing for her husband.

Best Actress

Sargent had a near-impossible mission in Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Streetcar Named Desire: to make the audience forget Vivien Leigh’s iconic performance in the film. But Sargent did it: her Blanche DuBois was skittish, vain, manipulative, self-deluding, fragile and tragic. She dominated the play and brought down the house. Amazing work.

Best Album

An album 10 years in the making, Tin Year is an impeccably crafted LP by veteran local musicians and New Granada Records leaders Keith and Susie Ulrey, plus Brian Roberts, Melissa Grady and Michael Waksman. Longtime collaborators Susie and Michael whittled down years of songwriting to the 13 tracks that were recorded, mixed and mastered by this year’s Best of the Bay-winning sound engineer and studio, Mark Nikolich at Atomic Audio. Tin Year is a thoughtful and stunning collection easing between buoyant folk roots, warm indie pop and gently-driving alt rock. Susie's pure piping vocals soar bright and vibrant, or glide delicate and serene over shimmering cello-fused instrumentals, complementing the delicate masculine vocal harmonies and occasional turns on lead by Keith and Michael. Overall, salve to the soul.

Runners-up: Morean Art Center, Florida Craftsman Gallery

Best Artistic Director

With remarkable rapidity, Davis has made freeFall Theatre into a jewel of a venue, a place where incisive straight plays and potently re-imagined musicals (this season’s Cabaret) are consistently offered on the highest levels of theatrical art. In Davis’ capable hands, first-rate Shakespeare has again become an annual event (The Comedy of Errors) and he’s shown an openness to local playwrights (Rip.Tied.) and a fine instinct for contemporary triumphs (Becky Shaw). He deserves our thanks.

Best Arts Festival

Runners-up: Gasparilla Arts Festival, Florida Craftsman

Best Badass Debut
Phil Bardi

I'm not sure exactly what San Francisco composer/multi-instrumentalist Adrian Younge and his "Venice Dawn" band played during their set at Antiwarpt 2012; aside from some cuts off latest release Something About April, it was all a blur of unadulterated badassness. A natural showman in hip aviator-style eyewear, Younge traded off instruments with his bandmates, from bass to organ and synths to flute and sax, then back to bass again. He expressed his excitement about being in Florida, struck a bargain at the beginning of the set — "Give us your all, and we’ll give you our all. Do we have a deal?" — and left both sides feeling like champions as the near full-house at State Theatre got the fuck down. Now that’s what I call a Sunshine State debut.

Best Band Resurrection

Weezer’s Pinkerton and Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister both dropped in 1996. It was also a good year for Tampa area music, as evidenced by the formation of Spiller and the release of their debut recording that year, Gold Leader EP, which features a catchy, sunshine-drenched mix of alt-rock and power pop. The reunion on April 7 at New World Brewery featured original members John McNicholas and Marcus McCord with new drummer Vinnie Cosentino. The Semis and Jensen Serf Co. opened, demonstrating the delightful progression of Tampa Bay indie rock through the years. Gigs at Heatwave and Antiwarpt have since followed; new music and more shows in the works. spiller.bandcamp.com