MARIE J. KILKER, Ph.D. – BACKSTAGE BYTES – Late Summer 2020
STEPHANIE GULARTE, Amrican Stage’s CEO and Producing Artistic Director who revitalized that St. Pete’s theater in the last five years, will be leaving the CEO position in the first quarter of 2021. Health reasons caused her decision to step down. (There’s no cure for her retenal disease at present, and it much affects her vision.) A national search for CEO will be in progress next February. Meanwhile, Stephanie will be planning next year’s program development and strategies to cope with the Covid virus. She’s continuing her devotion to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion activities.
MURRAY CHASE, Venice Theatre’s head, has announced VT, when it reopens, will seat at 30% capacity and present smaller shows and casts. There will possibly be more monologues, in fact. Murray says AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ is ready to go at any moment, starring Kristofer Getty–quite appropriate for a Fats Waller musical. Murray first announced his plans on TV with Linda Carson and Joey Panek on their “Suncoast View” program. The surest thing happening at VT is classes being given at all of its theaters.
MICHAEL KINSEY is behind the Facebook’s “Support Sarasota Magazine’s Black Owned Businesses” venture. Michael Kinsey Photography is one such business. Michael isn’t giving up performing, though, when opportunities arise.
KATE ALEXANDER deserves plenty of praise for her work on Florida Studio Theatre’s WOMEN’S SUFFRAGETTE PROJECT. The end-of-celebration performance, a virtual highlight, boasted Katherine Tanner as its writer. I hope the script is preserved, possibly for sharing with other theaters for anytime presentation.
LIL ‘N SATCHMO is Jo Morello’s new title for her play with music formerly called LIL ‘N LOUIE. It seems some people didn’t realize Louie was Armstrong. Jo has edited her script and it has received a lot of attention from Alan Smasson of New Orleans. (Alan is a friend of mine through our mutual membership and activities in American Theatre Critics Association.) On August 14, Alan live-streamed an hour-long program about LIL ‘N SATCHMO featuring Jo Morello and also Ricky Riccardi, who curates and is historian of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in NYC. You can find Alan’s program on You Tube. You should be pleased by Jo’s mention of Sarasotans Dick Hyman, the jazz great who first helped her with her drama and also Nate Jacobs, of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
SPEAKING OF BLACK AMERICAN THEATER PEOPLE brings me to mention Ralph Greene, who became a friend when we were pursuing degrees at Souithern Illinois U. in Carbondale. We were both determined to show that students of theater could be active in not just studying theater. We founded a national student theater magazine, THEATER NOW, of which I was editor-in-chief and Ralph was an associate editor. (We weren’t sustained by any schools or theater associations after the first issue, though.) My daughter Kristin and Ralph’s son (Ralph Jr.) played together in a downtown kids’ camp one summer. As Ralph was finishing his master’s, he was tagged by the famous dancer Katherine Dunham to work on her presentation of Scott Joplin’s TREEMONISHA, given at SIU-Edwardsville campus. Ralph ended up on the permanent staff there for years, then went to St. Louis and helmed a Black theater, modeled on the Kutana Players he had formed while still a student. I kept up with him when I worked in a historically Black college in St. Louis but by using phone and then mainly through our mutual friend H. D. Flowers II. Ralph recently died and I contacted his wife Bonnie Harmon Greene when I first found out about this. She answered my letter of condolences by inviting me to contribute to a program in Ralph’s honor to be given a virtual production in the near future. I am so happy to do this, as Ralph’s was a Black Life That Really Mattered. And Bonnie is keeping up their Unity Theatre Ensemble in STL.
DAMON BONETTI is an FSU/Asolo grad and cofounder of Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, which performs rarely performed classical plays at varying sites. Their web site–philadelphiacollective.org–lists not only its usual activities but also resources connected with Black Lives Matter.
ANGELA SAUER, 20ll FSU/Asolo Conservatory grad, appeared this year on an episode of “Mission Unstoppable with Miranda Cosgrove” on CBS. Angela teaches magic and does card tricks. She starred last year in Oct.-Nov. in MONOPOLY at Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles. Angela wrote of her whole Conservatory experience regularly for BACKSTAGE when she was a student.
PETER J. MENDEZ, Conservatory grad, has done some theater acting in Washington, D.C. Probably, though, he is best known for his appearances in TV’s “House of Cards”.
SARAH GAVITT who earned an Asolo Conservatory degree in 2009, played last July in HATPIN PANIC at Capital Fringe Curated Series.
DYLAN CROW, from last year’s FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s graduated class, is preparing to part-time teach a high school theater class and is directing a high school play. He announces he’s writing, directing, and starring in a short film but at an early stage. Since he left Sarasota, he relocated to New Jersey where he can connect to NYC easily. He’s done a bit of stage acting and made a commercial there.
JENNY VALLANCOURT, one of Dylan Crow’s classmates, had him as a guest performer in “Songs for Miss Jenny.” It’s a children’s program series she has created for You Tube and can be found there by adults as well, if you’re interested.
GABRIEL ORTIZ is the first Hispanic grad of the Asolo Conservatory who worked on the Mainstage and is now a charter school teacher in Manatee. He also frequently appears on our local PBS television program “Arts Plus.” With all the current fuss about lack of opportunity for students of color at the Conservatory, it’s ironic that Gabe decided to stay around locally. He has also adopted officially a few of his early students. No one’s nicer than Gabe or so unaware of this.
JEAN REED, whom many will remember was a prominent theater critic for the Pelican Press here a few decades ago, is once again being published. Her daughter Roberta “Bobbie” Hamilton tells me she’s resurrected and published a children’s story written by Jean Reed in the ’60s. FIVE FUNNY TUMMY MEN tersely tells about “five little guys who live in your tummy who assist in swallowing, digestion and delivery of nutrients to the different parts of your body.” Bobbie has arranged its publication as a book sized paperback illustrated originally by Clyde Seymour and recently refreshed by Jason Fowler, a Georgia art teacher. It should be a great gift for kids between two and ten and can be ordered from your local bookstore, Barnes & Norble, Books-a-Million, or Amazon for $14.95. The same sites carry a second edition featuring TUMMY MEN of color that should appeal especially to children of color. Bobbie notes that the publication is long overdue, as my crusty friend Jean herself would certainly comment on!