Supporting projects like Jobsite’s digital shorts tells the Tampa theater scene it still matters

Companies have looked toward virtual content to connect with audiences and to stay afloat financially.

click to enlarge Supporting projects like Jobsite’s digital shorts tells the Tampa theater scene it still matters
c/o Straz Center

“Much Madness is divinest Sense” intones Katrina Stevenson at the beginning of Jobsite’s “Doubt Raised a Voice that Sings.” The words of Emily Dickinson reverberate as black and white video captures aerialists training in the studio.

With our theatres forced into darkness by the pandemic, companies have looked toward virtual content to connect with audiences and to stay afloat financially. Jobsite’s artistic family has produced a series of digital shorts that are a bargain and worth your attention.

The most compelling one begins with Dickinson’s poetry and then after a fade to black we come up in the Straz Center’s Jaeb Theater with a live capture of Stevenson’s aerial dance. She hangs from two silks 20 feet above the stage floor slowly rotating as the piano vamps between chords and then modulates. Her head tilts back just so, eyes to the heavens, and in a seemingly effortless motion, she’s inverted, legs akimbo. She fondles the silks, twisting and slowly turning until her body is unfurled. Then, tinged with green light, she spins upside down like a zero gravity ice skater with her auburn mane flying away from her head by centrifugal force.

“Hold me, wrap me up, unfold me” Sia pleads as she sings “Breathe Me,” an anthem of anxiety and self-harm that provides the initial soundtrack. Stevenson’s agility and grace are beautifully captured in James Zambon’s multi-camera shoot. Her full layout like an upside down swan dive or the final descension into a lifeless rag doll should seemingly only be done by teenage gymnasts. But the ageless Stevenson is ethereal and cedes nothing to Gen Z.

Then, “Peace” by Taylor Swift takes us on nearly a four-minute seamless choreographed journey danced by the stunning Adriana Corso (pictured). What’s so expert and satisfying about this middle section is the integration of Hannah Box and Alexia Sky’s choreography with videographer Nicholas Smith’s crackerjack editing. It’s all of a piece as it shifts from the sensuous Corso in a floor-length black halter dress twirling across the floor at The Rialto then cutting to Corso on the sun-drenched sand in a similar coral-hued gown interspersed with silhouettes on the beach. It’s one long dance that shifts location and changes perspective while connecting the continuity of the dance moves. There are effortless skyward extensions juxtaposed with contractions on the beach and floor. The movement vocabulary that ties it all together is part Isadora Duncan with a touch of Martha Graham. It ends with a stunning drone shot over the water that pulls back until Corso is a mere dot contemplating the horizon.

Finally for the last piece of this trilogy, we’re back inside at the Jaeb where the ridiculously versatile Kasondra Rose performs her aerial dance to the title song that she wrote and sings. She splits the silks stretching her legs to the breaking point, but she doesn’t even flinch. As the indigo accents caress her hair, strength and elegance coexist—she soars, she flips, she stretches, she bends, she’s right side up, she’s upside down. The long shots show the stage floor fragmented like light through a faceted diamond, and finally, it ends in a downward tumble. The ultimate contraction tucked into a fetal position as the camera shifts it’s gaze 180-degrees and silhouettes the dancer against a theatre of empty chairs. You can’t help but reflect on those lost to COVID-19. It’s a piece that invites repeated viewings.

The shorts also include music videos and Zoom readings of Dickens, plus two comedic series. One of the region’s most acclaimed comedic actors, Jonelle Marie Meyer, appears in Halloween and Christmas episodes helmed by her male alter ego, Mort La Court. And then there’s “Cripperella in Quarantine,” an episodic fairytale written and performed by the self-deprecating Katie Calahan, who was so memorable in Stageworks “The Revolutionists.”

But the short film that caught me by surprise was Christen Hailey’s hilarious R-rated mockumentary “Sexo y Violencia: The Secret History of Tampa.” Episode 1, The Lair of the White Weasel takes us back to Henry B. Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel in 1898. Plant’s mistress, Maude, “an exotic beauty of unknown origins,” left behind a previously unknown diary that’s ridiculously tongue-in-cheek (and other orifices). David Estevez’s breathlessly confessional narration (over historical photos and drawings) tells a tale of Teddy Roosevelt’s “introduction to the monstrously sexy underground pagan Temple of Ybor City;” the aforementioned Jonelle Meyer is deliriously unhinged as the voice of Maude. 

This episode leaves us with "Game of Thrones"-worthy cliffhangers. Will Maude succeed in her nefarious plan to become the queen of Tampa? What will come of Roosevelt’s pansexual escapades? Is Henry Plant really a zombie? I’m hooked and ready for more.

You can not only get a week’s entertainment (over 10 hours if you crave Dickens) for only $10, but you’re free to explore the digital vault with everything from the gifted Nicole Jeannine Smith’s gender bent Hamlet to Roxanne Fay’s divine lunacy in one of the decade’s best performances from Taylor Mac’s HIR.

Until we’re all safe to meet again under one roof, avail yourself of the virtual content by our local professional companies. Keep them alive; your continued support is essential to our cultural treasures.

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