Venue Theatre, located on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park, is forced to close its doors at its current location and is hoping to reopen elsewhere within the city. A fundraiser for the theater is Saturday, May 10, at Country Harvest Restaurant in Clearwater.
PINELLAS PARK – Venue Theatre, a longtime staple for the arts in Pinellas Park, will shut its doors at its current U.S. 19 location on May 26. The small playhouse has offered local professional training and performances in the Pinellas County since 1992.
This news from Venue’s executive director Corinne Broskette came on the heels of the theater announcing plans for its first-ever summer season. Broskette had also previously announced that she’d be shifting gears and focusing on the theater’s educational offerings, while Frank Kronyak would step up to oversee the Venue Ensemble Theatre’s productions.
“But we were unfortunately hit with a very serious downturn of events,” Broskette said.
One of the actors in “A Bench in the Sun,” which was slated to run May 2 through 18, dropped out two weeks before the show began when he learned his wife had cancer.
“There’s no way we could have put another actor in there,” Broskette said. “When you’re doing a three-person show, the line load is very heavy.”
And the theater’s lease ended in April, and money is always a concern for small arts organizations, Broskette said.
“Fundraising efforts have been a lot slower than I thought they would be,” she said.
She added, “People have no idea how much it costs to run this little space … I hate to say the arts need money, but the arts need money.”
In the midst of all this, Kronyak decided to leave Venue. Broskette didn’t want to disclose his reason for quitting, but acknowledged the upheaval was stressful for everyone involved with the theater.
Despite this perfect storm of bad news, all isn’t lost for Venue just yet, she said. She’s hoping the Venue can bounce back in a new location.
“This doesn’t mean that we’re done,” she said. “It just means that we’re moving out of the Mainlands.”
She’s eying a few different options and hopes to stay in Pinellas Park.
“Being the only live theater that is there 12 months a year, I think Pinellas Park needs it,” she said.
Plus, she said, “It’s really easy to get to for students from all over the area.”
In the meantime, she’ll operate as best she can, renting conference rooms for acting classes as needed until she finds a permanent home.
Formed in 1992 as a nonprofit corporation dedicated to professional training and performance opportunities for non-Equity professional performers, the closing ends the third incarnation of Venue Theatre. Originally at 624 First Ave. S. in St. Petersburg, Venue Theatre moved to Gandy Boulevard in 1999 as a training studio only before relocating again in 2005 to the plaza at Mainlands Boulevard in Pinellas Park.
During its 22-year existence, Venue Theatre has produced more than 20 plays by new playwrights, including Gil Perlroth, Joseph Johnson, Donna Tripp, Suzanne Willett, Craig Alpaugh, Jack Spirtos and Fleming Erik Carlson. Venue Theatre also has produced numerous locally written one-act plays.
Venue Actors Studio, the training wing, has developed such well-known actors as Mark Consuelos, Brittany Snow, the “R” Girls, PYT (an all-girl close harmony group from Tampa with Lydia Bell, Lauren Mayhew, Tracy Williams and Ashley Niven), Jessica
Howell, Meredith Myers (The Stand-Up Librarian), The Blues Brothers Two, comedian Tony Gaud and many character actors, dancers, singers, filmmakers, playwrights and directors.
“Venue has risen from the ashes in the past, and this is no indication that it shall not rise again,” Broskette said. “I shall continue to teach acting, so look for more info in the near future about that part of Venue Theatre.”
In the meantime, the theater, located at 9125 U.S. 19 N., will hold a closing sale every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the end of May. They’ll be selling off old props and equipment, including furniture, art, books, masks, costumes and more.
“It’s amazing what a theater saves,” Broskette said. “We hold onto everything because you never know when you’re going to need it.”
And a classic car show and sock hop is being held Saturday, May 10, 4 to 8 p.m., at Country Harvest Restaurant, 1285 S. Missouri Ave., Clearwater, to raise funds for Venue’s relocation.
The event will feature special appearances by local celebrities, contests for the best ‘50s and ‘60s costumes, trophies for the top cars, raffles and a silent auction, music, food and more.
There is a $10 registration fee for vehicles of all makes and models.