Gasp! 2016: David Warner on CL's annual fringefest

The multi-disciplinary performing arts festival returns to Tampa Museum of Art Friday evening.


(UPDATE: Scroll down for downloadable PDFs of the schedule, map and performance descriptions!)

Have you noticed? There’s a whole lot of synergizin’ goin’ on in the local arts scene.

Collaboration.

Cross-pollination.

Synesthesia.

That last was on glorious display last weekend at a hybrid whatchamacallit of a show of the same name at The [email protected], the unofficial headquarters of such creative collisions, or maybe I mean collusions, though that sounds sinister, which Synesthesia wasn’t at all. Quite the contrary — it was joyous.

click to enlarge Becca McCoy hands off Lily McDole’s story to dancers Helen Hansen French and Paula Kramer as Matt Cowley looks on during the preparations for Synesthesia last week at The Studio@620. Both Becca and Matt are part of GASP!. - tom kramer
tom kramer
Becca McCoy hands off Lily McDole’s story to dancers Helen Hansen French and Paula Kramer as Matt Cowley looks on during the preparations for Synesthesia last week at The [email protected] Both Becca and Matt are part of GASP!.
Sheila Cowley, a local playwright with a genius for multi-disciplinary matchmaking, borrowed the idea from similar projects in NY and LA that paired actors and artists and musicians and writers for impromptu acts of creation. But whereas those metropoli gave participants weeks to prepare their collaborations, Sheila brought together her talented group of locals for one day only, during which (see if you can follow this) a short story by 11-year-old wunderkind Lily McDole, as performed by actor Becca McCoy, spawned a dance by Paula Kramer and Helen Hansen, which inspired a sculpture by James Oleson and — I haven’t quite got the order right here, but you get the idea — Jonathan Cho made up a song, artists Zulu Painter and Carrie Jadus made paintings, three actors (Lisa Powers-Tricomis, Elizabeth Brincklow and Jim Rayfield) performed a sly playlet, Maureen McDole (mother of Lily) wrote a poem, Banks Helfrich embodied an odd yet wonderful creature covered in litter and dragging a giant balloon, Matt Cowley (husband of Sheila) created a soundscape, Tom Kramer (husband of Paula) photographed the process, and Bob Devin Jones capped everything off with a choreopoem containing the bemused but defiant couplet, “I don’t know what I believe / I will art the hell up by Christmas Eve.”
And they came up with all that in a day, before performing the finished products that night.

Synesthesia, indeed.

You’ll read about other kinds of genre-bending, surprise-generating collabs elsewhere in this week’s CL stories, like the Exquisite Porch show at the Morean Arts Center, and the Gasparilla International Film Festival feature Waiting for Mary, a locally made film populated by some of the area’s best stage actors who turn out to be just as effective on screen. And, of course, there’s GASP! — CL’s third annual festival of the performing arts, happily happening this year on April 1 from 6-10 p.m. at the Tampa Museum of Art — yup, April Fools’ Night.

I have been mocked (affectionately, I think) for stating in previous years that GASP-goers should “prepare to be surprised.” And yes, preparation does kind of undermine surprises. But this year, I am truly, excitedly not quite sure what to expect when everyone comes together in and around the museum. I’m pretty sure the crowds will dance to UNRB, cringe at Sultan Fuego (previously known as The Human Blockhead), and gawk at Impulse Pole Dance. But will they willingly climb into the backseat of a MINI to watch a play taking place in the front seat? Will they follow the dancers from Moving Current and ROGUEdance as they move about the Plensa sculptures on the plaza? Once inside, will they stay for Heard ‘Em Say, go to the Gasparet, take to Zach Dorn’s toy theatre, or revel in the roundelay of local dance companies? And where will the Mobile Itinerant Funk Unit wander off to? Or will folks just head for the tapas from Sono or while away a few hours looking at the art upstairs?


I don’t know, and that’s a good 90 percent of the fun. But one thing you can be assured of: This is as fine an array of local performing artists as you’ll find anywhere, and for this one night they’ll be all together in one spot. We didn’t invent the idea of the multi-disciplinary, Fringe-esque arts fest in Tampa Bay — look back to Gala Corina, Dirty But Sophisticated, the Artists and Writers Balls in Ybor, CL’s own Sensory Overload — but we’re delighted to be carrying on the tradition, along with all our synesthesiastic friends.

Like the man said: We’re going to art the hell up.

Here's a closer look at all the festival's performers (right-click to download):
View document "Gasp6-8.pdf"
And here's a schedule and map:
View document "Gasp4-5.pdf"