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Tampa Bay Theatre Festival set to launch
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TAMPA – Lights … camera … action: The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival is set to launch this summer.

Organized by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit theater company RL Stage Inc., the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival will run Friday through Sunday, Aug. 29-31, with events taking place at the Straz Center, 1010 N. W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa; and at Stageworks Theatre, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., West Building, No. 151, Tampa.

According to the festival’s website, the mission is “to unite artists and theatre lovers within and beyond the Tampa Bay area for an amazing weekend of education and entertainment.”

Attendees will have an opportunity to experience informative workshops led by trained professionals. The festival will feature scene, monologue and short play competitions as well as theatrical entertainment.

Featured plays will include the following performances:

• “Death Row,” by Calhoun Cornwell – Friday, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m., at the Straz Center. A murderer, a child molester, a preacher and a man abused as a child all land on death row. How can a man be a child molester and go home and sleep with his wife? How can a father physically abuse his children? A successful businessman land behind bars for no reason at all? A pastor forsake his vows? These questions run through these men’s minds, and the answers to them lead to actions that land all four men on death row – but are they innocent or guilty? This play contains adult material. Tickets are $22.50. Call 813-229-7827 or visit

• “Saul’s Juke Joint,” by Tony Stinyard – Saturday, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m., at the Straz Center. In 1938, Saul’s Juke Joint was the place to be. People of all shades came to Saul’s to drink, dance, socialize and “pitch woo” to every “sheba” and “sheik” that entered the joint. The deep, Mid-Florida southern town had plenty to look forward to, but old Mayor Ebenezer had other plans. What starts off as innocent, good fun, turns into secrets, lies, betrayal, greed and possible murder. Tickets are $22.50. Call 813-229-7827 or visit

• “The Year of Independent Living,” by Lil Barcaski – Saturday, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m., at Stageworks Theatre. Over breakfast, Sal Hannigan's wife gives him an ultimatum: either his father moves out, or she does. Desperate to save his marriage, he asks his aging, difficult father to move into an assisted living facility. When Sal's wife ends up leaving him anyway, he and his father both have to learn to live independently for the first time in their lives. Tickets are $20. Visit

• “East Lansing,” by William Newkirk – Sunday, Aug. 31, 3 p.m., at Stageworks Theatre. By now, Mary Elizabeth Ryan expected she’d be a grandmother who baked cookies for her grandchildren after school. Instead she lives alone and her grandkids think she’s a movie character they talk to on the computer. A revelation during a tense dinner date sets her life spinning in a completely new trajectory. “East Lansing” is a story of aging, sex, true love, heart-breaking loss, non-traditional families, college football, days-of-the-week panties and the remarkable resilience of older women?. Tickets are $20. Visit

• “Seasons,” a musical by Elaine Pechacek and Katie Hammond – Sunday, Aug. 31, 3 p.m., at the Straz Center. Why do we love? Why do we accept the pain and struggles associated with love? Is it worth it? “Seasons” challenges these questions and presents love as an unassuming and undeniable part of the human existence. In this unique musical, journey with Hope as her mom, Mrs. Jones, confronts a cancer diagnosis while Peter finds new love with Helen after an unexpected pregnancy. Tickets are $22.50. Call 813-229-7827 or visit

Friday’s schedule includes registration and breakfast, 10 to 10:30 a.m., at Stageworks Theatre; improvisation with Gavin Hawk, 11 a.m. to noon, at Stageworks; the business of acting with Georgia Mallory Guy, 1 to 2:30 p.m., at Stageworks; audition workshop with Libya Pugh, 3 to 5 p.m., at Stageworks; and a networking social, 9:30 to 11 p.m., at Stageworks.

On Saturday, the schedule will include registration and breakfast, 8 to 8:45 a.m., at Stageworks; the Tasha Smith Acting Boot Camp, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Stageworks; monologue/scene competition, 2:30 to 4 p.m., at Stageworks; short play competition, 5 to 6:30 p.m., at Stageworks; and an open mic event, 9:30 to midnight, at Stageworks.

Sunday concludes the festival with programming including playwriting, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Stageworks; short play competition, 12:30 to 2:30, in Teco Theatre at the Straz Center; and the awards party, 7 to 10 p.m., at the Straz Center.

Prices vary for individual workshops. A weekend pass is available for $100. The weekend pass provides access to all of the workshops, short plays, monologue/scene competitions and the awards gala. It also includes a $5 discount off any of the full length shows and a $5 discount off of the festival T-shirts. This pass does not include the Tasha Smith boot camp. There are a limited number of weekend passes available. Visit

The Tasha Smith Boot Camp is one of the highlights of the festival.

The boot camp is designed to bring each student to the brink of creative discovery and revelation of their inherent, artistic potential. According to the event website, Smith’s instruction also will enable students to sharpen their talents through the process of rehearsal and presentation of assigned scenes/monologues and allow them to identify acting blocks and habits that may inhibit growth, imagination and free expression. These exercises are then diagnosed by Smith’s detailed and demonstrative critique of scene work. The scene study/critique format adapts a tried and proven methodology, resulting in the actor’s access to remarkable depth of character development, technical polish and brilliant interplay.

Smith is a multifaceted actress whose work brings style and intensity to the subjects she plays on the big and small screens.

She currently stars in the Tyler Perry television series, “For Better or Worse” on OWN for which she earned an NAACP Image Award nomination as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. She portrayed Angela, in Perry’s box office hits, “Why Did I Get Married?” and its sequel, “Why Did I Get Married, Too?”, starring alongside Janet Jackson and Jill Scott.

Smith is set to appear in Lionsgate’s upcoming feature “Addicted,” due in theaters in October.

Other speakers and panelists include Keith Arsenault, Anna Brennen, Corinne Broskette, George Mallory Guy, Gavin Hawk, Nate Jacobs, Rory Lawrence, Libya Pugh and Jayne Trinette.

Rory Lawrence is the visionary behind the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.

“I wanted to bring an exciting, multicultural, and innovative theatre festival to Tampa Bay,” Lawrence says on the festival website.

Lawrence was born and raised in Mulberry. His interest in acting emerged when he was attending Mulberry High School where he took drama class during his junior and senior years. He began watching independent movies and attending performances of local theatrical productions.

When he relocated to Tampa, joined an acting school led by his coach, Corinne Broskette.

Broskette introduced Lawrence to Stanislavski’s Method Acting. As Lawrence was able to learn from his coach’s experience as a protege of Lee Strasberg, he hopes to inspire others with the festival.

“I’ve always thought, ‘Let’s do something different, let’s bend the rules a little. Let’s not reinvent the wheels, but instead, let’s put some nice rims on them,’” Lawrence says on the festival website. “The goal is to have fun and learn all while celebrating theater. We will be presenting quality stage plays, workshops, competitions and professional speakers at each event in our efforts to offer something great to the Tampa Bay area.”

For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit
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