Stage news and new works at Stageworks

The oldest professional theater company in Tampa, Stageworks celebrated its 40th year last weekend with a fundraising gala – the first to be staged live, in person, since pre-pandemic times – at the Floridan Palace, the city’s oldest hotel. Executive director Karla Hartley found something wonderfully symmetrical about that.

Hartley admits she’s still “stunned” by the early-January gift of Stageworks’ longtime performance space, in the Grand Central District, by the development company Mercury Advisors, her now-former landlord.

“That’s the game-changer,” she says. “And I think that we’re the only theater company of this side of the bay that owns a space now.”

Stageworks was itself a “gypsy” company, with no fixed address, before Mercury leased them the space at 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. in 2012.

Near the end of last year, “They sold all the rest of the retail, the restaurants and the rest of the first floor, and they purposefully held back our space. Because even though our lease wouldn’t be up for another 25 years, they wanted to be sure we’d have the security of having the space.

“And the security for us, and the security for other theater companies who use the space on a regular basis, that’s … we’re in the middle of a strategic plan, so eventually that collateral is going to be useful to us as we try to move forward and expand.”

In the meantime, there’s theater to be done. Hartley is directing the farce The Smell of the Kill, opening tonight and running through Feb. 26.

Michele Lowe’s comedy stars longtime local favorites Heather Krueger, Susan Haldeman and Jonelle Meyer.

In the play, the women and their husbands are “couple-friends,” Hartley reports. “They have dinner together every month. There are troubles within each of the marriages. And one of the husbands has been indicted for embezzlement.

“We hear the men offstage. We never see the men. And they accidentally lock themselves inside the walk-in freezer that’s been installed – one of them is a hunter, so he has deer and rabbits in there.

“The women look at it as an opportunity, because they’re all unhappy in their marriages. So they decide to let them stay and freeze to death.

“It’s a dark comedy, for sure.”

Find tickets here.













Bill DeYoung

Catalyst Senior Writer and Editor Bill DeYoung was a St. Petersburg Times correspondent at the age of 17. He went on to a 30-year career at newspapers in Florida and Georgia. He is the author of "Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down," "Phil Gernhard Record Man," "I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews," "Vintage St. Pete: The Golden Age of Tourism - and More" and "Vintage St. Pete Volume II: Legends, Locations, Lifestyles."

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