Why our 20th Anniversary Season shows are for you, and why we chose them

If you’ve been following us for a minute you likely know I try to be as transparent as possible, I think demystifying all this behind-the-scenesy stuff is good for everyone. I think the more you all understand what we’re up to and why we’re up to it, the more likely you’ll be to maybe take a chance on a play you don’t know or pitch in a hand when we need it. This relationship has to be a two-way street.

You’re also probably aware of two other things as we ease from last season into our next: we’ve been beset by financial challenges from hurricanes to savage state arts funding cuts, and the coming season is our 20th — a major milestone for any theater, particularly one in this region.

The Artistic Associates and I got together several times over the year to talk frankly about all of this, and about how it had to inform our choices for the big year. Two things became clear: we needed to pay close attention to the desires of our community while still upholding our artistic mission, and we need to figure out creative/smart ways to do more artistically with less cash than we’ve done in the past.

We think these plays do all of that perfectly.

I began adding two content areas to all of our show’s pages last season to offer more than just a simple bit of marketing copy to help people better make an informed choice: Why It’s For You and Why We Chose It. Folks seemed to appreciate them and so here goes your first look at what this year’s areas say (of course you can see the regular short description of each play and these accompanying statements by clicking any of the titles below):

Hedwig and The Angry Inch
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
Have you ever loved and lost? Struggled with who you want to be versus who the world wants you to be? Been made to feel like a misfit or loser while knowing full well that you’re a shining-star rock and roller? This show’s for you. Fans of a true rock musical, fans of 70s glam (David Bowie, Velvet Underground, etc), fans of things like Rocky Horror and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, you will all certainly be fans of this.

WHY WE CHOSE IT
We’ve produced large musicals in the much larger Jaeb Theater since 2014. While those shows were all huge artistic successes that racked up loads of awards, we had difficulty paying the bills simply because how much more it costs to produce there.

As we looked to our 20th birthday we decided to reclaim our home in the Shimberg Playhouse and focus our efforts there. 2013’s run of Hedwig enjoyed a sold-out run and was a major factor in our decision to start consistently producing funky musicals as an annual thing, even before thinking about the Jaeb. This success with Hedwig was even before the cult-hit show caught a second wind on Broadway in 2014 in a major production starring NPH. Why wouldn’t we make this choice? Also, most people’s five favorite words in theater: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Edgar & Emily
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
Because you love to laugh. Because you can’t wait to get out all of your Halloween decorations every year. Because you’re a lit nerd, a lover of American history, or both. Because you’ve been simply dying for a good reason to release your inner spookykid. Because you love those TV episodes where they crossover two literary or historical figures in a meeting that never really happened but is pretty darned cool to imagine in a what-if. (And, hey, it’s another 90-minute show. Y’all seem to love those!)

WHY WE CHOSE IT
We’ve got a big ol’ soft spot for Halloween, it’s been the only “holiday” we’ve celebrated by producing a show for the past 20 years. We adore the playfulness of this script. We’re thrilled to bring another non-published work for Tampa audiences, this show has in fact only had one other professional staging. We also really love that this script combines these dark literary giants (played by our own Paul J. Potenza and Katrina Stevenson), both obsessed with death in their own very unique ways, and manages to make it a laugh-out-loud comedy.

Othello
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
Perhaps you’ve always struggled to find Shakespeare accessible, relevant, or (let’s be honest) even intelligible. Perhaps you’re a True Believer Bardophile. We’ve got you covered either way! For well over a decade and a half we’ve produced award-winning, audience-adored productions of Shakespeare set in all manner of times and places. This modern-day setting will feel completely ripped-from-the-headlines, focusing on more than just the black-white/east-west binary central to the original plot.

WHY WE CHOSE IT
For the past few years we’ve focused on Shakespearean comedies and romances, so we were itching to dig into another tragedy. Seeing this on the county reading list for high schools, we were immediately excited for the opportunity to bring these epic characters and rich language to life in a meaningful and relevant way for them. In terms of the play’s racial politics, we have an opportunity to let people think about how far we’ve maybe (or maybe not) come by telling a classic story given new context. In our telling of the story the focus is not simply that Othello is the Other (whether we want to call him black, Muslim, or just not-European) but that he’s the Other and in charge. Think of today’s conversations about notions of privilege and fragility, is there a better case study than Iago?

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
You really like to watch old white guys sweat profusely and embarrass themselves. You struggled through high school or college lit classes and have been dying for someone to savagely make fun of all this stuff. You didn’t struggle at all through lit classes and would like to come laugh louder than anyone else at the dank inside references. But really it’s probably just because you’ve had a week and wanna laugh for an hour and a half non-stop at three doughy sweaty white dudes.

WHY WE CHOSE IT
This is one from the vaults, for sure. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this is a play that certainly stands out — at one point we even called it “The Franchise.” We performed it often between 2001 and 2005 (not to mention the other (abridged) titles) and for many of our fans these shows are how they discovered us. We could have revived a lot of productions from out past but not many would be as meaningful and even fewer would keep the 20th anniversary party going the way this does.

We’re also excited that this is a [revised] script that takes some of the best gags and updates from productions all over the world (of course we look forward to adding even more of our own)!

Hedda
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
You’ve binge-watched every single BBC drama available and still can’t get enough. Maybe you’ve always been interested in Ibsen’s iconic anti-heroine (the play in all incarnations has always been a critique of marriage and traditional conceptions of femininity) but simply can’t get past the idea of having to watch a bunch of people in 1800s costumes acting stiff and mannerly sitting on big furniture. This is not only a new telling of a classic story, the central character is this presented through the writing of a modern, young woman playwright. You want to see the work who the British press calls “Britain’s brightest young stage writer” before she becomes a household name. As our modern Othello offers in terms of race, this Hedda allows us to possibly think about how women’s roles have changed (or not) over the past 150 or so years.

WHY WE CHOSE IT
It’s still hard (though getting less so, thankfully) to find shows that showcase strong women, independent women, modern women, or even “real” women. This one not only passes the Bechdel test but manages to add many interesting twists and clever updates to a story every theater student or connoisseur should know by heart. We also thrilled for the opportunity to offer the work of such an up-and-comer to our regional audiences. In terms of the 20th anniversary season specifically this script made perfect sense — we’ve always loved to tell known stories in all-new ways.

Constellations
WHY IT’S FOR YOU
You’ve never seen the classic boy-meets-girl storyline told with such creative genius. Nick Payne continues to innovate what theater does while creating characters that everyone in an audience can identify with. If you’ve ever been in love, you owe it to yourself to see this. Who among us hasn’t tried to reconstruct a moment from our lives that had further-reaching consequences than we ever expected?

WHY WE CHOSE IT
It’s simply a great play. It focuses on what we have always done as a company, and what we do best: tell a brilliant story through great acting and writing, cutting to the very heart of why live theater matters. There is little here in terms of pageantry or spectacle, but you’re going to be sucked into this experience whole. This show gives us hope for the future of theater, and we hope to continue to produce work like it for a long time to come.

OUR BEST DEAL EXPIRES JULY 24

Don’t forget that early bird pricing on season tickets expires on July 24. Until then you can see all six shows for just $129.90 with no added fees, just $21.65 per play. You’ll also enjoy dope benefits like unlimited free exchanges all year long when life gets in the way, a buddy pass, the ability to purchase extra tickets for friends at a discount, free entry into any Job-side Project and more.

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