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Arts Alive! podcast: The Off-Central’s Ward Smith

Bill DeYoung

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Show business is in Ward Smith’s blood. He’s an actor and a standup comedian, and he operates the Off-Central, St. Petersburg’s 42-seat black box theater.

The Off-Central’s tiny space epitomizes the word intimate. As Smith relates in today’s Arts Alive! podcast, the give-and-take between audience and performer is immediate, and skin-deep. This playhouse is not where you’re likely to see Les Miserables staged – or anything else with a cast of thousands. There are no nosebleed seats.

During the conversation, Smith talks about the benefits of that artist-to-audience ratio, and about the risks he takes in programming titles he believes are top-drawer, but don’t always have the “name recognition” that brings patrons to the theater.

Still, the Off-Central, in its third year, is benefitting from word-of-mouth, amongst the players and the people who watch them play. Smith takes us through the upcoming fall season, which includes the participation of several well-known professional actors who work almost exclusively on Tampa stages.

There’s also a lot of yakking about James McLure’s dry-as-a-Texas-breeze one-act comedies known collectively as 1959 Pink Cadillac, which is in its final weekend at the Off-Central.

Click on the arrow to listen to the interview.


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