Gasparilla Arts Month: GASP! returns to the Tampa Museum of Art Apr. 1

Let the April Foolishness commence!

In just two short years, GASP! has left us with a gasp-worthy supply of indelible impressions.

The dance company that brought in the red balloons.

The actresses who blew us away with their ability to channel legends.

The fire swallower. The improv marathon. The pole dancers.

All of this and more has blossomed inside and out of the Tampa Museum of Art thanks to a collaboration between the museum, Creative Loafing, and an awesomely talented array of artists. This year promises to be better than ever, and it’s scheduled, appropriately enough, on April Fool’s Night. Let the foolishness commence!

The event arose in 2014 out of mutual interests. The museum, under then director Todd Smith, was looking for ways to bring more performing arts events into the facility. CL, with its long-established investment in the arts, saw a gap in Gasparilla it wanted to fill.

The Gasparilla arts fests during the month of March in Tampa, especially around Curtis Hixon Park, showcased visual art (Gasparilla Festival of the Arts), music (Gasparilla Music Festival) and film (Gasparilla International Film Festival). But there was no festival focused primarily on the performing arts — theater, dance, spoken word, improv, comedy, carnival — or on the hybrids that brought these genres together with art, music and film.

Our inspiration was the free-wheeling, anything-can-happen-and-probably-will mashups in the Fringe Festival tradition (c.f. Edinburgh, Orlando, and cities around the globe) — where lots of different performing arts events are happening at once, the emphasis is on experimentation and surprise, and exciting partnerships evolve out of unexpected intersections between artists and audiences. We knew that the talent was out there for such a festival (indeed, we’d done similar programming for CL’s Sensory Overload events, as had the avantrepreneurs behind such happenings as Gala Corina and Dirty Yet Sophisticated). Adding a GASP! to Gasparilla Arts Month seemed like a perfect match.

And so it has been. Happily, the GASP! project has been welcomed by the museum’s new director, Michael Tomor. And this year seems a uniquely appropriate moment to stage a performing arts fest at the museum, which is graced at present by the extraordinary sculptures of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the subject of this week’s cover story. As Megan Voeller points out in her review, Plensa’s larger-than-life-sized figures often incorporate words, sounds and musical references — as in the tree-hugging gentlemen on the plaza, whose bodies (modeled after Plensa’s own) are inscribed with the names of great composers. I’m excited by the possibility of seeing dancers move in and among these sedentary beings, though given the millions they’re probably insured for, we won’t be able to get too close.

But that’s another of the benefits of holding a performing arts festival in this museum. With your ticket, you not only get to enjoy the crazy quilt of performing artists we have in store for you, you get to spend time in the galleries viewing two excellent exhibitions on the human figure as well as TMA’s stellar antiquities collection — all of which should work in brilliant counterpoint to the humans moving, singing, emoting and otherwise entertaining you elsewhere in the building.

A sneak peek at the lineup for Apr. 1. Times (and additional artists) TBA.

Andresia Moseley (Real The Artist):
Fiercely compelling spoken word from the actress who shone so brightly in For Colored Girls… at The Space.

Zach Dorn: An endlessly inventive, disarmingly funny mix of puppetry and film from the artist behind Miniature Curiosa, a hit at Charleston’s Spoleto Festival and The Studio@620

Radio Theatre Project: A Tampa-fied version of the wildly popular Adventures of Noel Berlin, Cabaret Detective, led by Paul Wilborn, Matt Cowley and the radio actors of RTP Live!

Heard ‘Em Say Youth Arts Collective: People are still talking about the performance by this ensemble of young spoken word artists at last year’s GASP!.

Ether Chambles: Video and ethereal vocals combine in haunting fashion.

Hoof Arted: A Christen Hailey Project: A sure-to-be-shockingly-hilarious mix of theater and “interpretive dance” from Best of the Bay-winning writer and raconteur Christen Hailey.

Live the Rhythm Company: Exuberant dance with something to say.

Improbable Athenaeum: Another fascinating experiment in language and interactive theater from Jo Averill-Snell and company.

Moving Current Dance Collective: Tampa’s leading modern dance troupe.

ROGUEdance: A sparkling new St. Pete-based dance company.

MIFU (Mobile Itinerant Funk Unit): The raucously entertaining roving band that kicked off last year’s GASP! with a blast of sound.

And introducing… The GASParet! An all-star roster of talent in a genre we haven’t included in GASP! before, but should have. Featuring:
Scott & Patti / Roxanne Fay / Becca McCoy / Blue Roses w. Paul Wilborn & Eugenie Bondurant

GASP! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival
Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza in Downtown Tampa. Fri. Apr. 1, 6-10 p.m. GA: $20 early bird (until 2/29); $25 advance; $30 at the door. VIP: $50 early bird (until 2/29); $55 advance; $60 door. All tickets include free admission into Tampa Museum of Art exhibitions, Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape and Public and Private: The Figure Examined. VIP includes four drink tickets and tapas by Sono Cafe/Mise en Place.