Hillsborough Goes Center Stage
Jobsite. Stageworks. Carrollwood Players. Powerstories.
These venues are more than theaters; they are creative gems nestled within the metropolitan treasure trove that is the theater scene in Hillsborough County. Its artists - actors, directors, designers, and crew - are committed to their craft, and Hillsborough County is stepping up to help grow theater culture in the area.
Jobsite Theater Artistic Director David Jenkins says that Hillsborough County theaters have grown more popular with new audiences in recent years.
"We don't rely on theater people to fill our seats like back in the day, and you don't see the same people in the audience at everyone's shows," he says. "The more we offer, the more identities and philosophies here, the more likely we are to attract new audiences and different kinds of people."
Since 1991, the Board of County Commissioners has provided general funds to the Arts Council of Hillsborough County for operational support, individual artist grants, and re-granting funds to nonprofit organizations, including theaters, which produce cultural programming. So far, the Arts Council has awarded a total of more than $10 million in Cultural Development Grant funds, which represents a large portion of the funds earmarked for re-granting.
Arts Council Executive Director Martine Meredith Collier says that the grants not only support theater programming in Hillsborough County, they also assist theaters and other arts organizations in building capacity.
"It is especially critical in 2018 because of the dramatic cuts in arts funding at the State level," she said. "We are very grateful to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners for not just sustaining, but also increasing funding for arts and culture this year."
For the 2018-19 season, the Arts Council awarded over $320,000 in Cultural Development Grant awards to 18 organizations, seven of which are community and professional theaters. One such venue is Stageworks, Tampa's longest- running professional theater company since 1983, whose season opener is Abby Mann's Holocaust drama, "Judgment at Nuremberg" (Sept. 28). Executive Director Karla Hartley is pleased the theater received a generous grant from the County, which will be dedicated toward workforce development for the theater's 2018-19 season shows, such as "Nuremberg," Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap," and newer, original works.
Jobsite Theater, whose season opener "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" was a box-office smash, will also take advantage of its grant award by splitting the funds evenly among all artists participating in any show during its season.
As the Board of County Commissioners and the Arts Council of Hillsborough County continue to provide cultural development grants to local organizations, local theaters are better able to offer the best in live entertainment to the public. Hartley says that cultural grants have been vital to Hillsborough County arts organizations, offering more opportunities for artists to showcase their work on a local level.
"Once upon a time, in order to succeed as an artist, you had to leave town," Hartley says. "I'm proud to say that that is no longer the case. Artists can now work and live in our area."
In addition to Stageworks and Jobsite Theater, let's take a peek at the five other theaters in Hillsborough County that were awarded funding grants for their 2018-19 season:
• Spanish Lyric Theatre
• Bits 'N Pieces Puppet Theatre
• New Tampa Players
• The Carrollwood Players
• Powerstories Theatre