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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Stephanie Gularte of American Stage

Bill DeYoung



American Stage Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte joined us Monday for The Catalyst Sessions, and talked about the ways Tampa Bay’s longest-lived professional theater is staying connected to the community during the current crisis.

Gularte, who is also CEO of the nonprofit arts organization, oversees an annual operating budget of $3.1 million. Add to that a massive subscriber base – that’s what 40 years of dependably great theater will get you – and there are a lot of people right now looking to her for answers.

And, like everybody else, she’s looking for them, too.

“I’ve really been working with the board and the staff over the past couple of years trying to be prepared for a potential hit of some kind,” Gularte said. “A surprise. Having gone through the Great Recession, I know that things can change quickly. So we’ve been building up some sustainability.

“But I would be absolutely full of it if I tried to, for a second, suggest that I had ever imagined something on this scale. Or that I have it all figured out what to do now.

“I will say there were a lot of strengths to the organization going into this, and my main job right now is to shore up relationships, make sure we’re maintaining our relationships with the community everywhere we can, and planning for a lot of different eventualities. Getting into planning mode is just a different gear for me, that I’m comfortable in, and the lack of control, I only ever once in a while let myself think about that.”

In a podcast posted a few days ago on the American Stage website, Gularte discusses the fluid Covid-19 situation, and its effects on arts organizations, with Paul Wilborn (Palladium Theater), Alex Harris (Arts Conservatory for Teens), Bob Devin Jones (thestudio@620) and Chris Crawford (freeFall Theatre).

“I think just talking through things as they’re happing can be helpful,” she said, “and that’s kind of what we do in the arts. In theater, through the dialogue of our characters, we’re literally talking through things. All artists are looking for that outlet for processing – processing life – and so we’re doing that. I think it’s an important part of gaining perspective. Making sure that you aren’t getting too myopic in the way that you’re responding … but also, it’s just cathartic. I think that’s probably the main thing right now.”

Tonight (April 7), our guest on The Catalyst Sessions (Facebook Live at 7 p.m.) will be musician, composer and bandleader Jeremy Douglass.








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