TAMPA — Anna Brennen, the founder and producing artistic director of Tampa’s Stageworks Theatre Company will retire at the end of this year.
Brennen, named Tampa’s 2006 Artist of the Year, started the theater 30 years ago after arriving in Tampa from New York in 1979 following a productive career as an actor and playwright.
Taking Brennen’s place as producing artistic director at Stageworks in the New Year will be associate artistic director Karla Hartley.
Two years ago, after more than two decades of moving from theater to theater in Tampa, the company opened its 8,000-square-foot Grand Central Theatre on Kennedy Boulevard.
Brennen’s formal theater training took place at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California, Berkeley.
She spent two years in London working with Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and Peter Hall before heading to New York where she studied in advanced private classes in New York City with Sandy Meisner (Neighborhood Playhouse), Mira Rostova (Moscow Art Theatre), Wynn Handmann (American Place), and Lloyd Richards (Yale University Drama School).
Her time in New York also included studying with Sanford Meisner.
Her professional acting credits include three leads in Much Ado About Nothing for the New York Shakespeare Festival as well as her role as an understudy to Colleen Dewhurst in Hamlet.
Her directing and producing resume includes more than 90 “mainstage” shows.
When Brennen founded Stageworks 30 years ago, her goals, which are reflected in the theatre’s mission statement, were clear: “to provide the highest quality professional theatre, which respects, ignites and celebrates the human spirit while challenging the thresholds of intolerance and insensitivity.”
In that vane, the company is known for producing plays that champion subjects relating to women, the LGBT community, religious minorities and people of color.
Brennen’s accolades include receiving the Florida Arts Council Playwriting Fellowship in 1981; an Emerging Artists grant from the Hillsborough County Arts Council for her new play, Echo Nevada in 1989; and an individual Artist Award from the Hillsborough Arts Council in 1991.