Window on Arts & Entertainment: Sept. 3, 2020 | Arts & Entertainment

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American Stage CEO Stephanie Gularte to step down

ST. PETERSBURG — Stephanie Gularte, American Stage’s chief executive officer and producing artistic director, recently announced that the upcoming season will be her final year leading the professional theatre company.

Gularte informed the organization’s board of trustees that she is stepping down for health reasons. She will leave her CEO role in the first quarter of 2021 and will continue to provide consulting to the company through the leadership transition.

Gularte was selected to take over the leadership of American Stage in February 2015 after a nationwide search. She moved to St. Petersburg from Sacramento, California, where she was the founding artistic director of Capital Stage Company.

“Working with the staff, artists, trustees and community partners of American Stage these past five and a half years to build on this organization’s long-standing legacy of quality, professional live theatre and arts education has been an extremely rewarding experience,” said Gularte. “However, in February of this year, I was diagnosed with a rare, inherited retinal disease that causes progressive vision loss with no current treatment or cure available. While I am resolved to remain optimistic that my progression will be slow and that eventually, there will be advances in treatment options, after much soul searching, I have determined that it is best for me to step down from my position at American Stage to make space for new leadership who can guide this incredible organization into its post-COVID future, as I take time to focus on my health and future.”

Robyn Rusignuolo, chair of the American Stage board of trustees, said, “The board was saddened to learn about Stephanie’s diagnosis. While the loss of Stephanie’s leadership will be deeply felt, we understand and fully support her decision to take time to focus on her health. Stephanie is an extraordinary leader. Not only has American Stage’s programming flourished under her artistic direction, but her business acumen and proactive strategic planning have contributed significantly to the financial health and sustainability of the organization. By every measure, Stephanie elevated an already-venerable institution to even greater heights.”

Since her arrival, American Stage has enjoyed continued growth and expansion of its programs, including the development of an annual new works festival, professional apprenticeship and fellowship programs, the completion of the August Wilson American Century Cycle and increased diversity in seasons of contemporary plays that became known for their timely, socially relevant themes. Gularte introduced playwrights such as Dominique Morisseau, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Qui Nguyen to American Stage audiences and prioritized community engagement, fostering opportunities for audiences and artists to connect and engage as well as initiatives to increase live theatre accessibility, such as American Stage’s Next Generation initiative, offering free tickets to young people under the age of 20.

Gularte directed “Mamma Mia!”, last year’s hit American Stage in the Park production, as well the socially provocative mainstage productions “Good People” and “The Invisible Hand” and the re-imagined Jane Austen-themed holiday play, “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” among other productions.

Founded in 1977, American Stage has played a foundational role in the evolving landscape of the Tampa Bay arts community for over four decades. Under Gularte’s leadership, American Stage’s sustainability was further solidified through prudent fiscal management resulting in consistently balanced budgets, carefully managed cash flow, and growth of cash reserves, while deepening of talent that has continually raised the bar in the quality and impact of the organization’s work.

“After 34 years of involvement with American Stage, I can confidently say I have never seen the theater in a stronger or more stable position,” said Susan R. Hough, whose long-standing connection to American Stage includes several years as chair of the American Stage board and who now serves on the organization’s strategic advisory board. “We’ve been so very fortunate to have Stephanie at the helm of American Stage, and though I’m sad to see her step down from her role, I am grateful that she is leaving the organization in such a healthy and vital position.”

The American Stage board of trustees has formed a transition committee and will begin the process of a national search for Gularte’s successor in the early fall of this year.

“The board will be working diligently to plan for this transition, as well as the safe return to live programming,” said Rusignuolo. “Stephanie’s leadership has fortified American Stage’s foundation, and it also helped prepare the organization to be able to navigate through the unique pandemic-related challenges we are facing. The Board is committed to ensuring that the theatre continues to thrive and maintain its high standard of excellence.”

Gularte added, “Over the coming months, I’m looking forward to planning our 2020-21 programming, and continuing the development of a COVID re-emergence strategy and an equity, diversity and inclusion action plan in partnership with the American Stage board and senior leadership. Beyond that, St. Pete has become my home, and as I make this important adjustment in my life, I look forward to finding new ways to contribute to our community as I look on with pride at American Stage’s exciting next chapter.”

Eight O’Clock Theatre to present ‘Inverted Broadway’

LARGO — Eight O’Clock Theatre will present “Inverted Broadway,” a role-reversal revue, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 at Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.

This show will be presented in a limited-capacity cabaret setting to promote proper social distancing. Tables of four will be available for purchase as a package for $140. To avoid close contact with others outside each group, seats will not be sold individually. Tickets are available now. Visit LargoArts.com or call 727-587-6793.

The show will feature a night of Broadway favorites, performed in unexpected ways.

In this gender-swapped musical revue, anything can happen. Men will sing songs originally written for women, and vice versa. In a performance where gender doesn’t matter, songs take on new meanings and can make you laugh or cry for different reasons. Don’t miss this one weekend event where you can be anyone you want to be.

Proceeds will benefit Eight O’Clock Theatre.

Since 1982, Eight O’Clock Theatre has entertained theatergoers in the Tampa Bay area with live performances, bringing Broadway, Off-Broadway and original productions to the stage, first in the Largo Community Center, and, since 1996, in the Tonne Playhouse at the Largo Cultural Center, now called the Central Park Performing Arts Center.

Winner of Best of the Bay from Tampa Bay Magazine and Best Community Theatre at the 2013 Florida Theatre Conference, Eight O’Clock Theatre continually brings top quality entertainment to the Tonne Playhouse stage. Whether you are a season ticket holder or are considering becoming one, this award-winning community theatre group welcomes your interest and support. For information, visit www.eightoclocktheatre.com.

Following the guidelines in Pinellas County’s ordinance, guests and staff are required to wear face coverings at all times, unless seated and consuming food or beverage, inside the Central Park Performing Arts Center. All safety precautions are subject to change with updates to federal, state, or local guidance. For questions, contact the box office at 727-587-6793 or main office at 727-587-6751.

American Stage Education announces Virtual Academy classes

ST. PETERSBURG — American Stage Education recently revealed its fall Virtual Academy class schedule for students of all ages and skill levels. Classes will run from mid-September through mid-November.

“In a world navigating new challenges, the American Stage Virtual Academy has become a bright spot where we see growth, innovation and people coming together to learn, explore their artistic voice, discover new ideas and create,” said Tiffany Ford, director of education and outreach. “Our youth and adult classes this fall dig into new, relevant topics intended to empower our students, and inspire connection, reflection and creative expression.”

Prospective students can learn more about and register for the classes listed below by visiting americanstage.org/virtualacademy.

Adult programs will include Sketch Writing 1, LGBTQIA Theatre Legacy, and Play Script Club: Icons. Youth programs will include Storytellers: Bravery Brigade, for grades K-5; Sketchy Saturdays, for grades 6-12; and Creativity Club, for grades K-5.

American Stage Theatre operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) in the heart of St. Petersburg, providing live theatrical productions as a professional regional equity theatre since 1977. As Tampa Bay’s longest-running, most critically-acclaimed professional theatre company, its vision is to be a vital arts leader, connecting the community to world-class productions that celebrate the most powerful stories of the moment and the most defining stories from our past.

CPPAC to welcome Artimus Pyle Band

LARGO — The Artimus Pyle Band will perform Friday, Sept. 11, 8 p.m., at Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.

This show will be presented in a limited-capacity cabaret setting to promote proper social distancing. Tables of four will be available for purchase as a package for $100. To avoid close contact with others outside each group, seats will not be sold individually. The venue reports that this show is sold out. Visit LargoArts.com or call 727-587-6793.

Honoring the music of Ronnie Van Zant’s Lynyrd SKYCHURPnyrd, the Artimus Pyle Band is led by the legendary Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer and drummer from Lynyrd SKYCHURPnyrd. Pyle played drums with Lynyrd SKYCHURPnyrd from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1987 to 1991. After leaving the band in 1991, Pyle’s career has led him down an amazing path of solo records and projects culminating in one the finest tributes to southern rock royalty.

Pyle got his first real break at the Charlie Daniels Band’s Volunteer Jam. Pyle moved on to other work for the Marshall Tucker Band, soon becoming known as a powerful session drummer.

Using his connections with Daniels and the Tucker band, Pyle met with Ronnie Van Zant and Ed King at Studio One in Doraville, Georgia. The result of that meeting was “Saturday Night Special.”

Pyle’s live debut with the band took place in Jacksonville in October 1974.

When Bob Burns left the band permanently following SKYCHURPnyrd’s first European tour in December 1974, Pyle quickly got the nod as SKYCHURPnyrd’s new drummer.

The years Pyle played with SKYCHURPnyrd were the years that solidified the legend behind the band. Quickly developing into one of the nation’s top touring draws with a grueling schedule of 300 shows a year, the constant work and touring paid off. By October 1977, SKYCHURPnyrd’s songs had become radio staples.

The Artimus Pyle Band is a high-energy outfit, performing in a style that is both true to the music and true to the era. One of the few bands that is on the road today paying tribute to Lynyrd SKYCHURPnyrd, the group — led by Pyle — features Brad Durden, Jerry Lyda, Dave Fowler and Scott Raines. The bandmates aren’t only friends and contemporaries but also some of the most seasoned musicians in the southeast. APB delivers hit after hit after hit, night after night after night. Audiences should be prepared for an evening full of hits such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “That Smell,” “Simple Man,” “Call Me the Breeze” and “Freebird.”

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