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Arts Alive! podcast: Actress Kathi Grau

Bill DeYoung



Mama Guava

For just about the entire 30 year run of Guavaween, Ybor City’s legendary all-hell Halloween party, Kathi Grau was the figurehead, the dealer in debauchery, the Grand Mistress of the bacchanalian 7th Avenue parade. She was Mama Guava, queen bee of the so-called “Mama Guava Stumble,” once labeled by a local reporter as “the sheer joy of cocktail-fueled exhibitionism.”

It was Hillsborough’s Mardi Gras. So of course its days were numbered.

In today’s Arts Alive! podcast, Grau, a card-carrying member of the Tampa theater scene before, during and after the high times of Guavaween, takes us down a particularly yellow brick road. We’ll go through the festival’s earliest days, its fabled “middle period” (a quarter-million people reportedly attended in 1990) and its less-than grand finale: It was 2017 when escalating costs, local government concern and a rising tide of community apathy finally did the ballyhooed event in.

Grau also discusses Tampa’s Berkeley Preparatory School, where she built the drama program from the ground up, taught and directed for 30 years and sent a good number of professional and well-earning theater-makers out into the world.

The conversation also covers her upcoming performance as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s stormy opera drama Master Class, May 11-14 at thestudio@620 in St. Petersburg.

Click the arrow below to listen to the interview.

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