Ask The Locals: Bonnie Agan

click to enlarge Ask The Locals: Bonnie Agan - heidi kurpiela
heidi kurpiela
Ask The Locals: Bonnie Agan

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. Studio@620 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.

Three decades later, voiceover works remains her mainstay. In addition to voicing the phone prompts at the Tampa Bay Times, Agan is a veteran narrator for industrial and educational videos. “I bill myself as the teacher you liked in school,” Agan says of her easygoing Midwestern cadence. “I’m friendly, but you still walk away having learned something from whatever I’ve narrated.”

In addition to performing at American Stage, Agan has appeared at freeFall Theatre Company and A Simple Theatre. She’s in her second season as artistic coordinator at The Radio Theatre Project at Studio@620, where she’s a recurring character in The Continuing Adventures of Noel Berlin, Cabaret Detective, a satirical serial adventure cooked up by musician/writers Paul Wilborn and Matt Cowley. Agan and her husband of 43 years, Richard Agan, a general contractor and wood artist, live among the moss-laden oaks in the tiny bohemian neighborhood of Driftwood just south of downtown St. Petersburg.

Favorite place to carb out: LA CASA DEL PANE. “This place was the answer to my prayers. It is the place to come worship bread. When I found out somebody was going to have good bread I went insane. I went to Weight Watchers for years. They always would say, ‘Quit when you’re full.’ I never knew what that meant.”
Favorite breakfast club: KISSIN’ CUZZINS. “There’s a group of us that meet there every Sunday. They make the most perfect hash browns and fried chicken. Sometimes I even order fried chicken for breakfast. I make so much noise at the table when I’m eating that it actually interrupts conversation.”
Favorite secret hair weapon: BLAYNE MOSIER at HAIRPORT 79. “Blayne rescued my hair 23 years ago when I was working at American Stage. We’ve known each other for so long we don’t even need to speak when I’m in the chair.”
Favorite way to spend dusk: Big Bayou in St. Pete’s Old Southeast neighborhood. “I like to go out the night before a full moon. There’s this beautiful window of time before the sun goes down and the moon comes up. I’ll sit there in my kayak for an hour or two and just howl at the moon.”
Favorite excuse to celebrate: STUDIO@620’S ANNUAL HONORS AWARDS. “Studio@620 is one of the few places that reaches beyond to celebrate people in the community who are not the usual suspects.”
Favorite reason for the season: NATE NAJAR’S HOLIDAY JAZZ SHOW at the PALLADIUM. “It’s easy to lose the magic of the holidays. Everybody’s out shopping and stressing. Whenever I see Nate’s beautiful show it puts me back in the spirit.”
Favorite taste of home: PETE AND SHORTY’S TAVERN. “Growing up in Iowa, everyone ate fried pork tenderloin sandwiches. Do you know how hard it is to find them here? Pete and Shorty’s serves them and plays all the Iowa State football games! If you’re an Iowa State fan, you get a free ear of corn and a beer. It’s a nice touch.”
Favorite place to work: freeFALL THEATRE. “I was in [artistic director] Eric Davis’s second show, Sleeping Beauty. It was the first time I worked for somebody who saw every detail from beginning to end. I hate to use the word genius, but I use it for Eric.”
Favorite reason to cross the Sunshine Skyway: URBANITE THEATRE in DOWNTOWN SARASOTA. “I just saw a first-class production in this small space. [Co-Artistic Director) Brendan Ragan came from the Asolo [Repertory Theatre]. He’s bringing unusual contemporary work to Sarasota — edgy, good stuff.”
Favorite local politico: MAYOR RICK KRISEMAN. “I got him to sing ‘My Kind of Town’ at Studio@620’s Honors Awards. He was great. He had a drink in his hand and a hat on his head. He was like Frank Sinatra. How many mayors would do that? I adore him. He has not disappointed.”
Favorite beach bums: Skimmers. “When I lived on Treasure Island, I loved walking along the shore and watching those skimmer birds come out and feed at sunset. They make me so happy.”
Favorite place for a potluck: North Beach at Fort De Soto Park. “All my friends are great cooks. We’ll often take a picnic out there to this spot on the north end with these fabulous shade trees. We’ll have a feast, go out for a swim and watch the sunset.”
Favorite local artist: CORALETTE DAMME. “She calls herself the Crafty Hag. She does real whimsical, wonderful things. They always make me smile.”


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