Celebrating Theater in the Tampa Bay Area!

ttb-awardsTheatre Tampa Bay recently celebrated its third annual awards ceremony, honoring this season’s productions in nine regional theatres of the Tampa Bay Area. Founded in 2010, the organization strives to bring attention to and support for local professional theatres. For the review, a panel of experts is chosen by the artistic directors of the eligible theatres and their votes are cast.

This year, thirty-five productions were nominated for almost twenty categories. American Stage did very well in a multiple of them, taking the majority of the nominations for categories like outstanding play, lead actress, set design, and lighting design. The Amish Project was a huge success as well, winning four of American Stage’s six awards. Here’s to another great season full of great performances and productions throughout our community.

Click here for the full list of nominees and recipients.

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Busy “bees” at American Stage

Things are buzzin’ around here at American Stage.

There are two shows running on the Main Stage.


When The World Was Green (A Chef’s Fable) by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin is a hauntingly lyrical memory play about an old man – once a superb chef – and the young reporter who comes to interview him in the prison…where he has been locked up for a mysterious act.  See it before it closes on April 21st.

Read the reviews.


The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey Starring Katherine Michelle Tanner runs through May 12th and has been getting rave reviews.  “Powerful” “Spellbinding” are just a few of the praises so far.  The play deals with some timely and difficult issues and we have scheduled several post performance talkbacks.

Then there is the 2013 Gala Under The Stars to start off this season’s American Stage in the Park production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee presented by Bank of America.

And we’ve announced our 2013-2013 Season of Love and Laughter

And school is almost out so it’s time for Summer Theatre Camps.





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August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson has Finally Arrived!

Featuring Sati Word, Tanesha Gary, and Bryant Bentley

Featuring Sati Word, Tanesha Gary, and Bryant Bentley

The first preview came in today from John Fleming with Tampa Bay Times. Read more about the director, the play and why it’s going to be one of our top productions of the year! http://bit.ly/10hFrRF

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Honoring Bud and Enez Hart & Beth Houghton and Scott Wagman

American Stage Theatre is pleased to announce two very special naming honors for our performance stage and concession stand:

“Bud and Enez Hart Performance Stage”
and the
“Beth Houghton & Scott Wagman Concession Stand”

Thank you to our very special friends!

 Bud and Enez recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and have always been travelers, theatre and art patrons.  After selling their department store in New Kensington PA. and relocating to Florida, Bud and Enez have dedicated their retirement years support the arts.  As founders of American Stage Theatre’s Travel Club, The Trippers, they started the trips as a way to travel with a group of friends, share the places they have discovered and raise money for the theatre. They stared with trips to beginning with NYC, DC and London and grew and grew doing as many as 2 trips per year to Europe with 4-5 trips a year. Enez was on the American Stage board for many years always having group dinner party’s at her home and all proceeds went to American Stage. Bud and Enez had several New Years Eve parties as fundraisers at the old theatre that Enez, a gourmet cook with a flair for French cuisine, did all the cooking for up to 75 people! Previously, Enez used to organize all of the volunteers that gave out Shakespeare in the Park tickets and provide meals for the acting company.

Beth and Scott are very active supporters of American Stage in many ways.  Scott is a current board member, Gala Committee chair for many years, and former board chair.  His support started with some cans of paint many years ago and has grown into a family affair with his wife Beth Houghton and their grown children.   Their generosity has been significant, sponsoring many plays through the years, and this most recent naming gift.   We appreciate and cherish their involvement, and look forward to honoring them when we unveil the new signage.

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Read the Review and Why Not to Miss A Doll’s House

The reviews are in for A Doll’s House and prove that this timeless classic is still as relevant today as it was nearly 150 years ago. Experience the life of one woman needing to break free from what is demanded of her and  the effects of those around her.

“Powerful…rare…sensual…Katherine Michelle Tanner is utterly, enchantingly right as the girlish housewife and mother in a gilded cage…well-etched performances by Lauren Wood and Steve Garland. John Woodson is a fine, florid Dr. Rank. Director Seth Gordon’s staging is faithful to the period.” -John Fleming,Tampa Bay Times

“Welcome to the Doll’s House…Katherine Michelle Tanner plays Nora…Wonderful impersonation. Torvald, impeccably portrayed by Christopher Swan. John Woodson seems to have stepped right out of Ibsen’s Norway as Dr. Rank. Top-notch are also Jill Davis’ set and Frank Chavez’s period costumes. … Can still shock and illuminate.” – Mark E. Leib, Creative Loafing

“It delivers a compelling buildup to one of the most famous final scenes in theatrical history. Katherine Michelle Tanner as Nora Helmer, is playful and filled with energy and childish excitement…with utter conviction. A Doll’s House remains a potent statement… Often gripping…has a fresh and contemporary flavor. The theater’s wide stage is beautifully designed and decorated. A clear-eyed view of how, more than 140 years later, “A Doll’s House” still has some surprising things to say.” – Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Get inside the mind of Seth Gordon, Director of A Doll’s House

American Stage Education sat down with Seth Gordon, Director of A DOLL’S HOUSE, opening on November 14 at American Stage.  Read on for some insight behind the director’s vision.

Why did you want to direct A Doll’s House?

I’ve never directed a play by Henrik Ibsen, who is considered, along with Shakespeare and the Sophocles, one of the greatest playwrights of all time. This play in particular is one that interests me now for two reasons. One is that most productions of it in this country are saddled by translations that tend to lean toward British dialects, and I’m hoping that our production, while set in the period, will have a contemporary American dialectic. I’m hoping it will make it easier for our audience to relate to the story and the characters.

I also consider the play to be particularly relevant today. It has things to say about the politics of marriage and the confluence of life choices made for passion and life choices made for necessity that I think will really speak to people.


What is your relationship to this play or to Ibsen’s work prior to being involved in this production?

Ibsen is among the most highly regarded of playwrights, and I’ve studied this play since high school. I’ve seen several productions and have thought much about how I might approach it over the years. This is my first opportunity to put all this to the test.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge of directing this play?

One of those challenges has already been largely met, as we have worked on a script that we hope will seem contemporary and domestic to our audience here in Florida. Making a play that takes place in Norway in the 1880’s reach out and touch today’s audience is our main challenge. We also have on our hands a classic play that many have heard of or seen in other productions or perhaps on television. Moving everyone’s preconceptions about the play out of their heads so that the audience can see the play fresh is also our challenge.

You are working with a classic text. What are the contemporary resonances of this play?

Without creating a spoiler alert, I’ll say that the event at the end of the play, momentous and controversial when the play was first staged, is something of a normal occurrence today. Having said that, many of the events that lead up to it are ones that our audience will recognize in their own lives, whether they have personally experienced these things in the same way or not.

While many women are now more emancipated than Nora, or perhaps they perceive themselves to be so, many relationships experience the same social and political inequality today. Many women continue to perceive themselves as economically dependent on their significant other, and it has a direct effect on the life choices they make. And many marriages continue to take place in one form of a doll’s house or another, where the fabric of the marriage is essentially a fallacy both participants have independently chosen to believe.

How will you approach or underline the central ideas of the play?

Part of my job is to facilitate a production that allows the actors and designers to illuminate the play’s central ideas, and to eliminate the barriers they may face as they strive for excellence in their work. Mr. Ibsen has done a marvelous job in telling a story with very compelling ideas. I have helped create an adaptation that best helps our audience understand the play in the language they speak, and I hope we have created a world on the stage of American Stage Company, through our choices for the set, the furniture, and the clothes the actors wear, that best illuminates the characters’ wants and desires.

In terms of illuminating the play’s central ideas, they come from clarifying Nora’s emotional journey through the play, and that journey belongs to the marvelously skilled and talented Katherine Tanner. I hope I’m able to be her third eye and help her take the audience on that ride.

What inspires you as a director?

As I’ve already suggested directing a play involves telling stories, solving problems and removing the barriers my colleagues might face toward doing their best work. I am also the person who, as my title suggests, provides the direction everyone will take, so we’re all moving toward the same goals.  As I am meant to provide the leadership and inspiration for everyone else, I look to the script I’m working on for my own inspiration.

I enjoy working on a production the most when there are two goals achieved. One is finding a script that involves characters whose journeys are affected by world events I wish to share with an audience. They can’t affect the world events, but they strive with vigorously to overcome them. The other goal is to find colleagues to work with who challenge and inspire me, and whose company I truly enjoy. I’ve achieved both goals with this project.

As a director, what is your preferred rehearsal process?

I try to tailor how a schedule is created for rehearsal to the needs of the script. In this case the main goals will be to make sure the play is staged in a way that best illuminates the story and the emotional journeys of the characters, and to make sure that Katherine Tanner, who is playing Nora, best executes her characters’ trajectory through the play.

I also work toward creating an atmosphere in rehearsal that allows for collaboration, where everyone contributes, the actors feel a sense of ownership of the decisions that go into their performances, and what’s left onstage are the best ideas we came up with, regardless of their origin.

Seth Gordon, Director for A Doll's House

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Changing Lives through Art. Wit is a Hit. The reviews are in!

Read why not to miss Wit starring Kim Crow. Two amazing reviews are in. This play will take you on a unique journey. Click on the links below to read the full reviews. Closes

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

What the critics are saying:
“A very funny, investigation into the meaning of life, death and God…Kim Crow’s Vivian…is girlishly vulnerable and eager to please, delivering droll zingers like a Borscht Belt comedian…Impressive…The Palladium stage, bigger than American Stage’s own space, has allowed director Todd Olson to bring an epic quality to Vivian’s story. The effects for X-rays and other procedures inflicted on Vivian are chillingly convincing…The American Stage production enjoys luxury casting in its supporting players, including Joe Parra…Barbara Redmond…and LuLu Picart…WIT is good medicine.” -John Fleming, Tampa Bay Times

“Brilliant…Wit is beyond words…a moving, harrowing, revelatory play about life. If great art is the art that combines beauty and depth, Wit is great art…and American Stage conveys its brilliance. Should you see Wit in spite of the fearsomeness of its subject? Absolutely. This is drama that can change, or at least redirect, your life. If an inspired work of art can remind us of that fact, we need it in our repertoire. Few plays are as important. See it if you can. 5 stars out of 5.” -Mark E. Leib, Creative Loafing

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A Devoted Arts Patron will be Missed; Her Spirit Lifts American Stage

Natalie McMasters (1928-2012)

 Please join us for A Celebration of Life for Natalie McMasters that will be held on October 23rd at 5:00 p.m., at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The family invites those who knew Natalie and appreciated all her contributions to attend.

Natalie McMasters – a talented athlete, excellent cook, fierce bridge player, loving partner to her husband Lew, and generous philanthropist – had many interests, and she developed them all fully.  “She wasn’t a dabbler,” her long-time friend Pat Baldwin explains.  “If Natalie was going to do it, she was going to do it well.”

St. Petersburg, her home from the age of three years old, provided Natalie with an ideal setting for her many talents.  From a young age, she sailed in the gulf and played tennis and golf year-round.  Later, she became a quiet force behind the burgeoning arts scene in downtown, a development that brought her much personal satisfaction.

 In the decades when Natalie was growing up here, and then raising her own family, St. Petersburg was still a small town.  It had little to offer artistically. Natalie and Lew realized they would need to look elsewhere to find cultural opportunities, both for themselves and for John and Martha, their two children.  John and Martha today fondly remember their parents regularly taking them to New York City as youngsters, to experience museums, plays, ballets, and concerts. Later, when Martha was in college in New York, Natalie would come up, both to visit her daughter and also to see theatre in Manhattan.

Then – to many people’s surprise – St. Petersburg began to grow from a sleepy southern town to a world-class arts destination. This transformation was an unexpected joy for Natalie, who took full advantage of the cultural offerings. She challenged her keen intellect by auditing literature classes at USF. She got involved with the Florida Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts from their beginnings in the late 1960’s.  

 Natalie also became a regular patron at American Stage Theatre, which was founded in 1977. She continuously supported American Stage Theatre over the years, making it possible for the theatre to be enjoying a robust 34th Season this year, in a time when many not-for-profit arts organizations are suffering.  She also joined the theatre’s Legacy Society, which was created by Marion Ballard, Natalie’s devoted friend and fellow American Stage supporter (and former Board President).

In addition to attending performances at the theatre, Natalie also traveled on the American Stage trips frequently, particularly the ones to New York. She was interested all types of theatre – serious drama, Broadway musicals, classics, edgier off-Broadway productions. Natalie didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion on the shows. “She didn’t like every play she saw, but she appreciated them all,” her traveling companion and dear friend Marilyn Mathis recalls. 

Natalie’s son emphasizes just how rewarding the arts were to Natalie, especially in the years following Lew’s death in 1999. “Seeing St. Petersburg develop a vibrant arts scene was very satisfying to her. It made her life full,” John says.

 In February of this year, just five months before Natalie’s death, Martha took her mother to New York City for a weekend of culture. They went to the NYC Ballet and a chamber music performance on the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge. They visited the Frick and MOMA, and saw a cutting-edge new drama at Lincoln Center. “We had a glorious time,” Martha shares. How fitting that Natalie, who loved the arts herself so much and strived to instill that same love in her children, was able to enjoy a wonderful weekend of the arts with her daughter in the last year of her life.

 Natalie McMasters was a loyal and generous supporter of many arts institutions in St. Petersburg, including this theatre. We are proud that Natalie attended American Stage productions and traveled on our theatre trips, and grateful that she included the theatre in her legacy gifts.


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Catch up with Nate Najar and John Lamb

Studio 10 had Nate Najar and John Lamb on their morning show to talk about their upcoming performance at American Stage and play some music. Check out Nate Najar and John Lamb on Studio 10. Click here.

Don’t miss our next Music Series:
The Ale and the Witch Music Productions Presents:
Nate Najar with John Lamb on Bass

Intimate Musical Conversation… Just Jazz


Tuesday, October 9 at 8 PM
Concessions and cash bar open at 6:30pm

Performing one night only on the
American Stage Theatre’s Mainstage

TICKETS: $15 – reserved seating

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Behind the Scenes with American Stage Theatre

Jerid Fox, Props Master - Behind the Scenes where the Sets take Form

American Stage Theatre is bringing even more theatre to life in St. Petersburg with their 2012.2013 season schedule.  In an effort to offer patrons and subscribers more variety, this professional theatre company added more programming.  This move enabled the creation of three Series; Fall, Spring and Summer, each consisting of three plays.  Todd Olson, Producing Artistic Director, shares his insight on the upcoming productions, including the new partnership with the St. Petersburg College Theater Department for the upcoming production of WIT, opening on October 21 at the Palladium Theater.

            “Without the college’s involvement we would not be able to produce larger cast plays of this magnitude. That is a win for us. Having a work like WIT on the Palladium stage is a win for SPC and  having their students involved with this cast and creative team is a win for the SPC Theater Program. Having access to this venue and this good energy is a win for American Stage,” says Olson.

           In addition to WIT, the Fall Series wraps up with A DOLL’S HOUSE opening on November 14.  Todd explains why this play is an important choice; ”American Stage is primarily a contemporary theatre and A DOLL’S HOUSE was the first modern play, so, in a way, we’re starting with where our tradition began. We also have a reputation for producing the plays that won’t be seen anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area. In a way, Ibsen is the grandfather of any modern theatre and he is missing on stages in this region. So we’re embracing a century-old tradition and reviving a masterpiece to learn how much it still has to say about how we live now.”

            Olson also gave a glimpse for what audiences can expect from the Spring Series. “The new year will bring unforgettable human stories that speak to the world at this moment. All three plays have to do with reconciling our history with the challenges of the present moment. All have to do with family, revival, and repair. On top of continuing the August Wilson Century Cycle with PIANO LESSON, audiences will enjoy the area premiere’s of Sam Shepard’s WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN: A CHEF’S FABLE, and Jessica Dickey’s play, AMISH PROJECT, based on a true story.”

For more information on the upcoming plays visit americanstage.org or contact their box office at 727.823.7529.

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