There’s so much stage to work with in the Demens Landing site for American Stage’s In-The-Park series, most set designers over the years have unsurprisingly settled on environments with an open, uncrowded feel. But In the Heights (music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes) wanted us to witness a jam-packed, messily urban New York City barrio, with one storefront pushing up uncomfortably against another. And this was the set that Steve Mitchell gave us: a kinetic, overfilled street in Washington Heights, with a bodega and a hairdresser and a taxi dispatcher and more, all competing for a little area of their own in which to provide sustenance for their owners. Of course the people on this street needed to assert themselves with loud salsa and hip-hop: How else to cry “Freedom!” in so congested a place? And of course, In the Heights transcended its own script to keep us satisfied. With that set (and those actors), who wouldn’t understand everything?
In the early 1990s, when Bonnie Agan was cast in American Stage’s The Diary of Anne Frank, all of St. Petersburg’s arts and cultural scene could be traversed in one quarter of a city block. “It’s been marvelous to watch the arts grow up in this town,” Agan says. “I give a lot of the credit to Bob Devin Jones. [email protected] is a petri dish. Everything goes in there and kind of takes off.”
Before she was on the speed dials of the city’s hottest artistic directors, Agan worked in advertising. She spent the first half of her career working in radio production — first in her home state of Iowa and later at WFLA in Tampa, where she quickly became the station’s go-to female voice for on-air ads. At the time there weren’t a lot of women on the radio, and Agan, who studied broadcasting at Iowa State University, was just the right blend of funny, feisty and articulate.
Read a full interview with Bonnie at Ask The Locals!
As executive and artistic director of St. Petersburg Opera Company, Mark Sforzini has successfully banished the notion that opera is stuffy. He enjoys sending up the art form with events like the Opera Therapy series, in which he literally puts opera characters on the couch; gets up-close-and-personal with fans in Mornings and Evenings with the Maestro (“I explain things, tell a lot of jokes”); and famously showed off his hula hooping skills (he was a world champ at 10) in a production of Die Fledermaus.
Read a full interview with Mark at Ask The Locals!
Earlier this year, Tampa Bay’s resident filmfest guru, Margaret Murray, made the jump from executive director of the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) to donor development manager for the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in St. Petersburg. Murray, who grew up in St. Pete, made an indelible impression on local cinema buffs even before leading TIGLFF, having launched Movies That Move in 1999, a pop-up theater series that predated St. Petersburg Preservation’s beloved Movies in the Park by more than a decade. Armed with a low-powered FM transmitter, Murray showcased acclaimed independent movies at locations across Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
Read a full interview with Margaret at Ask The Locals!
Lawrence has parlayed his charismatic and empathic nature and an uncanny knack for making new connections into a new calling as a theater director, actor, playwright and guy-in-charge of the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival, now two years running. This year the festival brought in distinguished actor Harry Lennix from NBC’s The Blacklist.
Read a full interview with Rory at Ask The Locals!
For more than two decades, St. Pete resident Rebekah Pulley has helped shape Tampa Bay’s reputation as a haven for alternative country sounds, and spreading that gospel as one of the area’s hardest-touring independent musicians.
Read a full interview with Rebekah at Ask The Locals!
Artist Ya La’ford is a whirlwind of positivity and ideas, dashing to and fro like the unique shattered-glass-like patterns she paints on walls and murals. Involved with several civic arts projects, the affectionate and gregarious artist most recently contributed “The Sunnel” to the SHINE Mural Project. The underground tunnel between Ferg’s Sports Bar and Tropicana Field is now filled with symbols and geometric patterns that pay tribute to the sunrise. When LED lights illuminate the artwork, the interconnecting patterns become even more vivid. The work, she says, is inspired by the Sunshine State. Coincidentally, La’ford is born under the sign of Leo, ruled by the Sun...
Read a full interview with Ya at Ask The Locals!
He fills our nights with Miles, Coltrane, a smooth bossa nova, a skronky Ornette Coleman, which alone merits an award, but Bob Seymour is so much more than another DJ on the left side of the dial. The silky-voiced host of All Night Jazz has served as jazz director for WUSF 89.7 for more than three decades, shepherding us into the wee hours with some of the greatest tunes of all time and some exciting new compositions you won’t hear anywhere else. A local music icon himself, he has interviewed a mind-boggling number of jazz legends and supports the jazz scenes throughout the Tampa Bay region.
Sometimes an actor gives a performance that is so precise, so microscopically detailed, it transcends realism and enters into a realm of art without a name. This was the case in Jobsite Theater’s Annapurna, wherein Paul Potenza played Ulysses, a dying, slovenly poet living in a filthy trailer in Colorado. Baring himself both physically and psychologically, Potenza showed us everything from the emphysema that was killing Ulysses to the man’s dread that he had ended his marriage by committing an unspeakable act — which he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember. If someone we knew acted this way in real life, we’d probably run for an exit. But in the theater, the performance was a nonstop revelation. And you had to worry for Potenza: could he maintain this degree of honesty night after night without damage to his “real” self? Then that too was amazing.
Actress Sallee has been appearing on local stages for over a decade, but she reached a new level of excellence in her portrayal of Boo Levy in Jobsite’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo. What was most striking about her superb performance was how she suggested a complex moral and sentimental world with just a few gestures, an intonation, a passing look. As mother to the needy, dreamy Lala Levy, Sallee’s Boo was a woman who saw her responsibilities as endless, who found it necessary to solve her daughter’s romantic problems now, but who no doubt would be applying herself to her grandchildren’s toilet training in just a few short years. It was careful, and carefully crafted acting, that brought us this figure, with her self-confidence, her stubbornness, and her tireless attention to the people around her.