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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Karla Hartley

Bill DeYoung



Monday’s guest on The Catalyst Sessions directed a ray of optimism onto the currently not-so-great state of affairs for arts organizations locally, nationally – and, indeed, globally.

The arts, said Stageworks Theatre artistic director Karla Hartley, will be needed more than ever when the pandemic fears have passed.

“It should really feel like the clouds are open and the sun is shining, and that’s what the arts are,” Hartley said during the Catalyst’s livestreaming arts interview program.

“They shine a light on society, and a light on humanity that is important for all of us to see. I really believe in the notion of artist-as-historian. Everything that we know about the world around us, and ancient civilizations, we know because somebody wrote a play about it, somebody painted a painting about it, somebody wrote a story about it …”

Hartley envisions a future where the Covid-19 way of life, such as it is, is historically persevered by art. “I think that as artists are engaged in what’s happening right now, and the darkness of what this is, it’ll serve as a record for generations to come about what this time was like, and how we were able to move through it with generosity and a spirit of willfulness that will be helpful to everybody as we come to the other side of it.”

The Catalyst Sessions appears Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page. Our intention is to keep the bay area connected with its vital arts community, one artist, musicians, writer or otherwise at a time, for as long as the current situation lasts.

Hartley, a major player on the Tampa Bay arts scene for more than two decades, has been in the driver’s seat at Stageworks since 2013.

When everything shut down, her company was about to open a production of the classic courtroom drama 12 Angry Men.

“We have, at the moment, about $25,000 into 12 Angry Men,” she said Monday. “Typically speaking, for each production certainly later in the season, where the more accessible titles are, we would get 30-some thousand dollars in ticket revenue from each production. So we’re certainly looking at somewhere like $100,000 in losses there. It’s going to be challenging.”

Hartley, her staff and her board of directors are currently devising ways to make their own virtual connections, to remind subscribers, fans and friends that the company is still there … and still creative.

“We’re trying, in many different ways, to make sure the arts are still accessible … ultimately, I think a digital medium is sort of dissatisfying,” she said.

“To be in the room with a teacher is not the same as seeing a teacher over Zoom, right? Which has also been weird, because I teach at the University of Tampa, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to teach my cabaret class, or my stage management class, and not be in the same room with the singer and the accompanist. It’s very, very weird and I don’t know what to do!”

Watch the full, recorded interview segment with Karla Hartley here.

Tonight (Wednesday, April 1), we’ll visit with singer/songwriter Kasondra Rose, who promises a song or two … live from her home studio.

Kasondra Rose



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