As autumn approaches – and indeed, as Covid continues to be a presence in our lives – the arts are enjoying a spring-like rebirth in the Tampa Bay area.
September brings the introduction of two new ways to consider the visual. Fairgrounds, the walk-through arts “experience” first described by founder Liz Dimmitt in 2019, will open its doors this Thursday (Sept. 2).
Located, as was always planned, inside the Factory St. Pete (in the Warehouse Arts District), the 15,000-square-foot Fairgrounds has been designed by a collective of local artists who’ve contributed unique dioramas. The opening exhibit is called Floridarama.
Look for an expanded preview of Fairgrounds Wednesday in the Catalyst.
On Sept. 7, the city’s third privately-owned museum debuts, after several years of construction delays, Covid-caused breath-holding and other snafus. Financed by pharmaceutical giant Rudy Ciccarello, the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is a five-story, 137,000-square-foot showcase for Ciccarello’s expansive collection of fine and decorative art from the movement, which swept the country between approximately 1890 and 1930.
Ciccarello is an internationally recognized expert on the subject, and the 40,000 square feet of gallery space will spotlight not only his collection, but temporary exhibits from around the world.
There’s also an education studio, graphic studio, retail store, research library, theater, event space, café and destination restaurant, Ambrosia.
And the band plays on
Its long summer snooze finally over, The Florida Orchestra returns Sept. 24-26 with a bang: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. This season-opener is also key because it marks TFO’s return to its regular schedule – performances at the Mahaffey Theater, Straz Center and Ruth Eckerd Hall – after a season of shorter shows, at the Mahaffey only (a matter of pandemic protection).
“When we’re in a season like we have been, with the pandemic, it feels like the ice will never melt in Narnia,” musical director and conductor Michael Francis told the Catalyst in May. “But then, of course it does. Winter does pass, and we head into this spring, and this positivity. And so having Four Seasons is having a good reminder of the historical cycle of all the things that we go thorough, good and bad.
“And then Beethoven Five takes all that is dark and seemingly ominous, and then through perseverance, courage and – a word I’ve never used before – nevergiveup-ability – at the end of that symphony, what began as darkness turns to light. And then it becomes the theme of hope.”
A newly commissioned work by Tampa’s Michael Ippolito is also on the weekend program.
The mainstage at American Stage also returns to as-close-to-normal as we’ve got with the Sept. 17 world premiere of The People Downstairs, local playwright and novelist Natalie Symons’ dark comedy about an agoraphobic and the world both inside and outside.
The show, which had two preview performances back in March, 2020 before everything came crashing down, stars Sara Oliva, Matthew McGee and Shelley Williams return from the original cast (it’s McGee I a rare dramatic turn), and a scheduling snafu meant Don Walker has replaced the actor who appeared in the previews.
The mightily talented Chris Crawford, who moved to Orlando at the start of the pandemic, has come back to direct the show once again; it’s also the first production under new producing artistic director Rashandra Ramoon Maharaj.
Tampa Repertory Theatre brings Every Brilliant Thing, the brilliant one-man show with Ned Averill-Snell, back for a suite of performances starting Sept. 16 (not outdoors this time, but at Hillborough Community College. It’s running in repertory with Open, in a which a woman called The Magician, who is attempting to reverse (or at least stump) reality as her lover lies dying in a hospital bed after a horrific gay-bashing incident.
It doesn’t come around until the end of the month, but Jobsite Theater is introducing Tampa Bay to Liza Birkenmeier’s play Dr. Ride’s American Beach House, about a pair of St. Louis women sitting one a roof one night in 1983, discussing their lives, their loves and the American space program (Dr. Ride’s first name, in this context, is Sally, and she is a big topic of conversation, too). It opens Sept. 29.
Concerts and stage shows
Hasan Minhaj, former Daily Show correspondent and the host and creator of the Emmy-wining Netflix comedy show Patriot Act, has two performances Sept. 18 at Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts. While the 7 p.m. show is sold out, tickets are available for Minhaj’s 10 p.m. performance. (He was also, famously, the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner).
The Alan Parsons Live Project, which brings the songwriter, engineer and producer and friends to Ruth Eckerd Hall Sept. 10, includes Carl Palmer – of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Asia – in the band. Ruth’s Capitol Theatre September shows include comedian Whitney Cummings (Sept. 11), jazz sax player Boney James (Sept. 17), Christopher Cross (Sept. 19) and Queensryche’s Geoff Tate (Sept. 25). And Lindsey Buckingham plays Ruth Eckerd Hall proper Sept. 27.
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried – yeah, the guy with the voice – has a date at Largo’s Central Park Performing Arts Center Sept. 24; Helen Keaney and Trish Keating headline Girls Night Out, an all-woman comedy showcase, the very same night at the Palladium in St. Pete.
Eric Clapton, who’s going through a late-career controversy because of his vehement anti-vaxxing stance, plays Amalie Arena Sept. 25.