No matter how you’re celebrating the end of the year I hope that it involves laughter and joy. I can’t believe that 2016 ends this week. It’s been a wild one in many ways, full of highs and lows that seem unparalleled (or perhaps I’m just getting old): personally, for the company, and around the world in general. It’s important to me that you all know how thankful I am and how I’m counting my blessings as I prepare to welcome in 2017 with a mixture of high hopes and deep concern.
This time last year my board of directors helped me finalize the plans for our very first Annual Campaign that would offset the gap between what we need to properly administer a professional theater company and what we can realistically expect the market to bear in terms of ticket sales. Our task was made easier by the generosity of the Gobioff Foundation, who provided us a $30,000 matching grant. The success of this campaign has already produced results we hoped for. Since I now have more hours to devote to the company I have the ability to take more meetings, do more research, seek more funding and we’ve already been awarded significant grants from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Saunders Foundation. The $20,000 from those sources are being applied to our outreach efforts connected to our Shakespeare programming that impact thousands of students from 7th grade through college for little to no cost to them or the schools while properly compensating our artists at every level. If you would still like to make a tax-deductible gift to Jobsite in 2016 you can still do so through Saturday and add your name to the growing list of our friends standing up for our work.
I think that we had a damn fine year artistically, beginning with Israel Horovitz’s residency for Lebensraum. The hilarious Broadway hit Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and our take on the potent modern classic The Maids dazzled audiences and critics in the spring, and Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still was the sleeper hit of the summer (and a personal dream-come-true chance to get back on stage in a fantastic role). Our 16-17 season opener, The Underpants, was given a Best of the Bay Award for Best Season Kickoff and we kept on rocking with our blockbuster production of LIZZIE in the Jaeb. We’re sure that audiences are going to eat up our start to 2017: a modern dress, Tampa-inspired production of Shakespeare’s timeless romantic comedy As You Like It. Opening weekend is selling out fast! A pass for the final four productions of the current season is still on sale for 20% off and comes with great benefits.
Speaking of season passes, we’ve broken a record for season passes in the Shimberg Playhouse that predates our company back to the time the Straz (then TBPAC) produced a series of plays in the room (then the Off Center Theater). Having a strong base of season passholders allows us to budget more accurately, take greater risks in terms of the kinds of plays we program, and also affords us more time to work on making the shows great instead of chasing down people to buy tickets. We’re a very small operation (I am the only full-time employee) with low overhead and a large ensemble of artists and so every dollar donated, every advance ticket sold, truly makes a difference.
We’ve developed some pretty cool partnerships this year with local organizations and businesses, which we hope to do more of in 2017 while strengthening our current bonds. Our friends at Fodder & Shine/The Refinery, Rollin Oats, Illumination Advertising, Creative Loafing, and Straz Center are simply the best, We enjoyed getting to know you all better during community forums throughout the year that explored themes of race, religion, art, journalism, politics, civics and ethics with invited guests from partners like the Florida Holocaust Museum, Tampa Bay Times, CAIR Florida, and the Tampa Bay History Center. Our production of As You Like It is taking #DoLocal to a whole new level with our soundtrack 100% courtesy of New Granada Records. Did you see the new teaser featuring the piece Pohgoh created for us? We’re exploring how to work even better with our brothers and sisters in the arts community and are discussing collaborations with Tempus Projects, Moving Current Dance Collective, a yet-to-be-announced new local festival in the planning stages, and we were thrilled to offer Some Sort of Show space for four Fourth Friday Tampa events and the Some Sort of Theater Awards Show this fall.
If you haven’t seen yet, we’ve received a ton of nominations in the 2016 BroadwayWorld Regional Awards and hope you’ll consider dropping us a few votes. We’re currently in the lead for Best Professional Theater Company and several other races but the margins are thin and voting ends on Saturday. Our 2016 shows and the artists who made them took home a total of 6 Creative Loafing Best of the Bay Awards.
The world experienced a great deal of pain, a tremendous amount of loss, in 2016 and I’m handling things the only way I think I can make a difference: I’m doubling down here. Healing, change, these things happen incrementally, slowly, and from the ground up. I love this community, I love this city and I hope that I serve to the best of my ability in 2017. Part of this personal initiative includes teaching a class on performing resistance for the USF Honors College this spring and taking the director’s seat for Stageworks’ February production of Annie Baker’s The Aliens. Karla Hartley is one of my dearest and longest friendships in Tampa and we share a deep respect for one another’s commitment to the area and work. You’ll likely remember she directed our season opener, among many shows for us over the years. I can’t fix everything but I can try to make a difference person to person, do my best while trying to reach the most, and continue to try to make Jobsite a place for us to all come together, artists and audiences, to be a part of an unending conversation.
Wishing you all the very best in 2017,