If community theater is a labor of love, payable in praise after the curtain goes down, the Carrollwood Players recently received a huge bonus.
The nonprofit community group was named the Best Community Theater Company in Tampa during the 2013 BroadwayWorld.com Tampa Awards. The group also earned a number of other accolades, including Best Actor and Actress in a Play, Best Play, Best Set Design and Best Set, courtesy of fans who voted during the website’s online polling period.
BroadwayWorld.com is a website dedicated to covering all things live theater. Its 2013 awards program included more than 50 regions worldwide, each with their own regional contests. Tampa theater lovers, for example, could vote on Tampa-specific nominees.
Honors aside, Carrollwood Players’ spokesman Jim Johnson said the community group is a treasure unique to northwest Hillsborough. While other nonprofit, all-volunteer theater groups exist, few can boast having their own theater or celebrating their 33rd season.
The Carrollwood Players have been a community institution since 1981. They’ve staged performances at the 100-seat Carrollwood Theatre, 4333-5 Gunn Highway, for about 20 years. While directors sometimes receive a small stipend to offset some of their costs, all other members of the group build sets, create lighting and sound designs, and act and sing for no financial compensation.
“We do it for a number of reasons; partially to give back to the community, partially because people love theater,” Johnson explained. “People who come to see shows decide it’s a lot of fun and they decide they want to get involved.”
Since the Players is all-volunteer, opportunities abound for anyone – with or without experience – to get involved. While auditions are staged for parts in each production, anyone in the community can try out and assistance is always welcome behind the scenes, he said.
“We bring live theater to the community,” said board member and former president MaryAnn Bardi.
That kind of experience, Johnson added, is something that is made affordable and accessible courtesy of groups like the Players.
“Watching live entertainment, you feel more connected to the entertainment,” Johnson said. “Just in general going to live theater gives you a better feel than going to a movie or watching on TV.”
While BroadwayWorld.com’s rankings may help the Carrollwood Players gain recognition among the theater crowd, it’s Johnson’s hope to make sure residents throughout the region are also aware of the productions the group puts on each year.
“We’d like more people in Carrollwood to know we’re here,” he said.
To that end, the group is reaching out on their Facebook page and through other channels to promote shows and let people know about opportunities to get involved.
So, what’s the best way to support the group?
“The easiest way is to come see a show,” Johnson said. “They’re going to have a great time.”
Ticket prices tend to run around $15 for students and seniors and $18 for adults. Other ways residents can support the group include buying season tickets, advertising in the Players’ newsletter, helping with productions and so on.
“What I love about it is it’s theater by the community for the community,” said Jim Russell, the group’s outgoing president and a board member.