Guest blog: She loves her Willy!

Welcome another contributor to Blogsite, Kimberly Russell! She has a story to tell you about her history with our next show:

I remember the first show I ever saw at Jobsite. I was about 16, and my World History teacher had just played us The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). I remember being one of the few people who laughed at everything, and I remember feeling like a very smug teenager who “got it” when everyone else around me didn’t.

I had a history of very bad-ass English teachers who really loved The Bard and loved teaching him to students. They were very enthusiastic about the subject, welcomed questions, and appreciated our interpretations of the work. My sister was also a huge fan of Shakespeare, so we had all of his work in the house. I was a Shakespeare fan.

Which brings me back to watching the video of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged.) Because of all the great book-learnin’ I had, I felt like this was MY MOMENT. All of my studies had built up to this show. It was funny! It took the piss out of Shakespeare, my main man! This, to me, was everything. I bought a copy of it on Amazon. I made all of my friends watch it. I made my parents watch it. I quoted it all the time. I talked about it to anyone who stood still long enough to listen to me.  It was a cult film for me — forced upon my family, friends, and any poor sap who was interested in dating me at the time.

We all need to keep in mind that this was before we had Facebook listening to our conversations and knew that every website was data-mining us for our information. So, this discovery of Jobsite was quite organic. I was doing my thing on the internet when I stumble across the Straz Center’s website, and right there on the front page, there it was:

Jobsite Theater presents

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED)

I couldn’t believe it! This was my jam! One of my favorite things in the world! And it was right there! In my city! I called my friends, I told my sister, I made a power-point presentation to convince my parents that we should go. You don’t know this about me — I mean how could you, we just met — but I sold the hell out of that presentation and we got the tickets.

We sat in the very front row. 16-year old me thought this was the bee’s knees. The lights dimmed, and the show started …

When I say this, know I absolutely mean it, this production was leaps and bounds better than the recorded version I wore out the DVD of. It was funnier, delivered better, and performed more masterfully. Sure, the DVD was recorded in front of an audience, but there is absolutely nothing like seeing it performed live by the 3 guys that were in front of me.

Did I mention there is audience participation in this show? Well, buckle up, baby — there is audience participation! And guess who got to participate? Other people, sure — but I got to, and I’m writing this so let’s focus on me. It was my first and last time being on a professional stage, in a clearly award-winning performance as Ophelia. I still remember it like it was yesterday and it continues to be one of my favorite theatre experiences.

It also kick-started my more than decade-long love affair with Jobsite Theater. I graduated high school, started work, and continued to follow them on social media, commenting and participating in contests. I both bought and won tickets to many shows and adored every single one

About 3 years ago, the incomparable David Jenkins put out a request for volunteers. Since I’m such a fan, I obviously wanted to help. I recruited other volunteers, I helped coordinate food and drinks for events, I painted sets and literally did anything I could do to help this theater that I loved so much.

This year I bought season tickets for the first time for their 20th anniversary. Color me pleased-as-punch that they are doing this show again, the show that was so impactful for me for most of my life. The show that was the catalyst for my lovely relationship with David and all the wonderful people who are a part of Jobsite Theater.

With everything that is going on in the world right now, art is more important than ever. This show, and Jobsite Theater as a whole, to me, has always provided respite for when everything is a bit too heavy and you just need to escape. And laugh. And laugh.

I am so excited that this show is back on stage. I will be there opening night re-living my youth. Come and share it with me! I promise you’ll enjoy yourself, and I hope at least one of you gets to experience your favorite thing for the first time and have Jobsite Theater to thank for it.

Jobsite Theater brings back The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) now newly [revised] after a 14-year absence of it from our stage. Previews begin Wed., Mar. 13. Opening night is Fri., Mar. 15, and includes a pre-show treat from Rollin’ Oats Tampa and a post-show celebration at the Barrymore Hotel Tampa‘s WaterWorks Bar & Grill.

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