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American Stage announces a cautious return to performance

Bill DeYoung



Natalie Symons' "The People Downstairs" will finally premiere in January 2021. Photo: Joey Clay.

Clockwise from top left: Gularte, Stevens, Montoya and Lynett talk theater Friday on Zoom.

American Stage CEO and producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte announced the theater’s 2020-21 season via a Zoom presentation Friday evening – a willing and necessary nod to the “evolving realities around us,” she said, as much of the season will be performed digitally.

As American Stage moves into next year, there will be a return to live performances, Gularte explained, including the annual musical extravaganza in Demens Landing Park, Footloose, postponed from April 2020 because of the pandemic.

The season also includes Tampa Bay playwright Natalie Symons’ The People Downstairs, which was in preview performances last March, but never had its full performance run, as Covid-19 shut everything down.

There’s a bit of wishful thinking in all of this, Gularte admitted; the hybrid season will proceed as planned as long as the pandemic allows it to happen.

It was a bittersweet announcement for American Stage’s chief officer, as she will be stepping down at the end of the season due to a health issue.

Gularte will guest on The Catalyst Sessions Tuesday.

The new season, titled Reimagine, begins with a trio of digital-only plays:

Letters to Kamala, an America Stage commission from playwright Rachel Lynett (October/November); Kate – The Unexamined Life of Katharine Hepburn by Rick Foster, starring Janis Stevens (Long Day’s Journey Into Night) (November); Nosotros La Gente (We The People), an American Stage commissioned work by Jerry Montoya (December).

Lynett, Stevens and Montoya joined Gularte’s Zoom session to discuss the work; they were followed by American Stage’s Jerrid Fox, Kristin Clippard and Stephanie Snyder, and Robin Rusignuolo, chairman of the American Stage Board of Trustees.

After a two-play digital family series between October and November, the “fun” begins. The plan is for these “hybrid series” shows to be performed live, with audiences safely distanced as rules dictate, and also to be made available virtually.

It is, of course, a work in progress.

“When it is safe for us to return to onsite performances, we will be ready,” Gularte said. “This season programming allows us to remain nimble as we innovate ways to deliver more powerful stories than ever before.”

January 2021: The People Downstairs by Natalie Symons (World Premiere)

February/March 2021: Satchmo at the Waldorf by Terry Teachout

April/May 2021: Footloose – The Musical at Demens Landing Park

May/June 2021: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh

July/August 2021: Romeo & Juliet in America (the one with the happy ending) by William Shakespeare and adapted by American Stage

Also on the schedule: 5th Annual 21st Century Voices: Emerging Plays – New Play Festival (January) and the AS IF Improv Festival (summer).

Details, season subscriptions and more can be found here.







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